AHAS 'Roadmap to Highway Safety' Colors Most States Average Yellow

Most states earned average grades in a nationwide report card tracking state progress on the enactment of 15 model laws to curb the near-record-high number of deaths on the nation's highways, according to an annual study issued this week by Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, a coalition of insurance, consumer, health, safety, and law enforcement organizations joined to advance state and federal highway and vehicle safety laws, programs, and policies.

In its fifth annual report, the "2008 Roadmap to State Highway Safety Laws," AHAS graded each state and the District of Columbia based their adoption of 15 recommended traffic laws to require seat belt, child booster seat, and motorcycle helmet use, and to strengthen teen driving and drunk driving statutes. While the report found that no state has adopted all 15 traffic safety measures, it gave grades of "Green"--the highest score--to the following 17 states that came the closest with 11 or more laws: Alabama, California, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Washington. The District of Columbia received a Green rating, as well.

Conversely, three states--Arkansas, South Dakota, and Wyoming--received a Red rating, which AHAS says indicates a dangerous lack of key laws. The Red-rated states had less than 7 laws on the books and not even a primary enforcement seat belt law. The majority of states received Yellow, or "average," grades, signifying that they were somewhere in between the Green and Red.

With nearly every state legislature currently in session, AHAS said it issued the 2008 report cards as a timely call-to-action to focus policymakers on specific steps each should take this year to reduce the leading cause of death of Americans ages 4 to 34--traffic crashes. Every day, nine of 10 Americans use the nation's 4 million miles of roadway to drive to work, school, or other nearby destinations. As proven legislative solutions in the form of highway safety laws languish in state legislatures, 119 people are killed and nearly 7,400 others are injured every day on the nation's highways, AHAS said. In 2006, more than 42,600 people were killed and 2.5 million were injured in motor vehicle crashes in the United States, which was the second highest number of traffic deaths since 1990 when 44,599 people died.

"More than half of those killed were unbuckled, and the number of motorcycle rider deaths continued to climb for the ninth consecutive year," said AHAS President Judith Lee Stone. "At the same time, fatalities involving teen motorists and drunk drivers didn't budge. We can and must do better, starting with this strong foundation of proven-effective laws." The full report and a replay of the news conference webcast can be found at www.saferoads.org.

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