Advocates’ Statement on Labor Day Travel and State Traffic Safety Laws

  • August 31, 2017
150 150 Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety


Contact: Eric Naing, 202-408-1711, cell: 217-493-8294,


More travelers this Labor Day Weekend means a greater potential for deadly crashes

Millions of families across the country will be on the road for end-of-summer holiday travel, and are urged to take sensible steps to ensure their safety

Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety (Advocates) urges motorists this Labor Day weekend to obey speed limits, buckle-up, put away distracting cell phones, don’t drink and drive, and wear a helmet when riding a motorcycle. The historic increase in drivers on the road for Labor Day weekend creates a greater potential for tragedy. Unfortunately, many states lack some of the most important traffic safety laws to prevent motor vehicle crashes, deaths, and injuries. It is time for state lawmakers to enact commonsense and cost-effective laws to make our roads and families safe every day of the year.

Motor vehicle crashes killed more than 35,000 people in 2015, a 7.2 percent increase from 2014 and the largest percentage jump in nearly 50 years. Preliminary 2016 data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) show that this deadly trend may continue or become worse. These alarming numbers are a wake-up call to governors and state legislators to make passing comprehensive, proven traffic safety laws an urgent priority. Every passenger, in every seat, on every trip should be properly restrained by a seat belt or appropriate child restraint. Additionally, stronger laws are needed to stop impaired and distracted driving, protect novice teen drivers through adoption of comprehensive graduated driver licensing (GDL) programs, and require motorcycle helmets for all riders. These and other critical measures are outlined in Advocates’ 2017 Roadmap of State Highway Safety Laws.

In 2015, impaired driving crashes killed more than 10,000 people; speeding-related crashes killed over 9,500 people; distracted driving crashes killed nearly 3,500 people; approximately 5,000 motorcyclists were killed in crashes; more than 4,700 died in crashes involving a young driver; over 4,000 were killed in crashes involving large trucks; more than 5,300 pedestrians were killed in crashes; over 800 cyclists were killed; and, nearly half of the 22,441 passenger vehicle occupants who were killed were not wearing seat belts. With more drivers than usual traveling over Labor Day weekend, the added traffic will exacerbate known safety hazards.

This year, only six states took action to advance safety by enacting one of the 15 basic laws listed in Advocates’ 2017 Roadmap Report:

  • Nevada and Oklahoma enacted laws requiring ignition interlock devices for all drunk driving offenders;
  • Arkansas enacted a law prohibiting open containers of alcohol in the passenger compartment;
  • Texas enacted a primary enforcement texting ban, and Iowa upgraded its texting ban to primary enforcement; and,
  • Mississippi enacted a primary enforcement rear seat belt law and now requires all positions to be buckled up.

Advocates commends these state lawmakers for advancing critical safety measures. However, there are still 370 highway safety laws missing in states across the country. Swift action and strong leadership are needed in state legislatures to close these dangerous and deadly gaps in state laws. Missing laws include:

  • 7 states MISSING: an all-driver text messaging ban (AZ, FL, MO, MT, NE, OH, SD)
  • 20 states MISSING: an all-offender ignition interlock device law (CA, FL, GA, ID, IN, IA, KY, MA, MI, MN, MT, NJ, NC, ND, OH, PA, SC, SD, WI, WY)
  • 9 states MISSING: an open container law (AK, CT, DE, LA, MS, MO, TN, VA, WY)
  • 3 states MISSING: a child endangerment law for people driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs (NM, SD, VT)
  • 31 states MISSING: an all-rider motorcycle helmet law (AK, AZ, AR, CO, CT, DE, FL, HI, ID, IL, IN, IA, KS, KY, ME, MI, MN, MT, NH, NM, ND, OH, OK, ID, IL, IN, IA, KY, LA, MN, MS)
  • 31 states MISSING: an all-passenger, primary enforcement seat belt law (AL, AZ, AR, CO, CT, FL, GA, ID, IA, KS, MD, MA, MI, MO, MT, NE, NV, NH, NJ, NY, NC, ND, OH, OK, PA, SD, TN, VT, VA, WV, WY)
  • 39 states and DC MISSING: an optimal booster seat law (AL, AK, AZ, AR, CA, CO, CT, DE, FL, HI, ID, IL, IN, IA, KS, KY, LA, ME, MS, MO, MT, NE, NV, NH, NM, NY, NC, ND, OH, OK, OR, PA, SC, SD, TN, VT, VA, WI, WY)
  • Every state and DC MISSING: at least one critical part of a comprehensive GDL law containing seven key safety components

By enacting and enforcing proven highway safety laws, Labor Day weekend can be a time of celebration instead of a time of mourning for the loss of a loved one needlessly killed in a preventable crash.