A new study by SafeRoads.org takes aim at the recent uptick in traffic deaths nationally and on a state-by-state basis, and it suggests that the lack of driver safety laws may be at least partially to blame.
The report was released at the close of two consecutive years in which traffic fatalities rose for the first time in decades. In 2015, there were nearly 35,100 people killed in car accidents, which was the largest increase in the country in 50 years. Early data from 2016 appears to be even worse, revealing an eight percent increase in just the first nine months of the year. The final data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) for 2015 indicates sharp increases for nearly every category of crash, including motorcycle fatalities (eight percent), unbelted vehicle passengers (five percent), pedestrians (10 percent), teen drivers (10 percent), children (six percent), impaired drivers (three percent), cyclists (12 percent) and distracted drivers (nine percent).
In this 14th annual report, Roadmap of State Highway Safety Laws, researchers opine that too many states are lacking a number of critical safety laws. For example, a number of states don’t require motorcyclists to wear helmets, even though we know it saves lives. Numerous states don’t make it illegal to talk on a cell phone, even though we know this can be just as distracting as texting.
There were reportedly a total of 6.3 million car accidents in 2015, which resulted in 35,100 deaths and 2.44 million serious injuries. That cost to society is estimated at about $836 billion annually – $242 billion of that in economic costs. In North Carolina, the annual economic cost of motor vehicle crashes is $7.9 billion. In South Carolina, it’s $4 billion. Those figures don’t include valuations for loss of quality of life.
Each day, about 96 people are killed on American roads, and another 67,000 are injured. In North Carolina, we had 1,379 people killed in motor vehicle accidents in 2015.
Federal safety requirements are a key part of improving safety, but state laws have to be an element as well, researchers said. The problem is too many state legislatures are not being as proactive as they need to be in order to target this issue. And yet, we are about 376 laws shy nationally of where would need to be to fully meet advocates’ recommended optimal safety laws. Last year, only five laws were passed in four states plus D.C. that meet the criteria for the 15 basic safety laws included in the report. Laws that don’t meet the criteria – including those that are subject to only secondary enforcement – aren’t included in this action.
These basic laws include things like primary enforcement on seat belt laws, graduated drivers’ license laws, child passenger safety requirements, and tough impaired driving laws.
Laws lacking in North Carolina include primary enforcement of the seat belt law (rear), a booster seat law that encompasses children up to age eight, a graduated driver’s license law, a minimum age of 16 for a learner’s permit, and an interlock ignition law for all DUI offenders.
Meanwhile in South Carolina, the laws that are lacking include:
- All rider motorcycle helmet law
- Booster seat law up to age eight
- Graduated driver’s license – minimum age 16 for learner’s permit
- Graduated driver’s license – stronger supervised driving requirement
- Graduated driver’s license – stronger passenger restriction
- Graduated driver’s license – cell phone restrictions
- Graduated driver’s license – age 18 for unrestricted license
- Ignition interlock for all DUI offenders
Both states – on a scale of green (good), yellow (caution), and red (danger) – are ranked yellow, meaning they need improvement because of gaps in the recommended optimal laws.
Contact the Carolina injury lawyers at the Lee Law Offices by calling 800-887-1965.
2017 Roadmap of State Highway Safety Laws, January 2017, Advocates for Highway & Auto Safety
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Hilyer v. Fortier – Default Judgment in Crash Case Reversed, Jan. 25, 2017, Greensboro Car Accident Lawyer Blog