Safety group ranks states’ road laws

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A safety group has chosen Arizona, Arkansas, South Dakota and Wyoming as the states where lawmakers have done the poorest job of reducing death and injury on U.S. roads.

Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety released its fourth annual Roadmap to State Highway Safety Laws Jan. 8. It rates each state and the District of Columbia on the adoption of 15 laws known to significantly improve road safety, according to the group.

The 15 laws counted by the group involve such problem areas as teen driving and impaired driving, and mandate the use of such devices as seat belts, motorcycle helmets and child booster seats. None of the laws specifically addresses commercial drivers or commercial vehicles.

No state had all 15 safety measures, the group reported. Ranked as good, however, were Alabama, California, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee and Washington.

Four of those states were ranked as the best because they each passed at least two additional safety laws in 2006: Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois and Kentucky.

Ranked as needing improvement were Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

Ranked as falling “dangerously behind” were Arkansas, South Dakota and Wyoming. Those states and Arizona were listed in a separate, new category of “worst performing states,” defined as “the historically lowest rated states that have made little to no legislative progress in recent years.”

Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety is a coalition of insurance, consumer, health, safety and law enforcement organizations. The group says motor vehicle crashes remain the top killer of Americans ages 4 to 34, with a total annual economic cost of $230 billion — the equivalent of a yearly “crash tax” of $792 on every man, woman and child in the country.

The complete report and a detailed list of all the laws the group considers essential can be read at the group’s website, www.saferoads.org.