Advocates push for more laws to prevent fatal highway accidents

As the number of car accidents in Massachusetts and nationally has consistently declined over the past decade, lawmakers have grown slack in implementing additional traffic-safety laws to better protect motorists. Now, a recent uptick in roadway fatalities has triggered a shockwave of concern and could give advocacy groups the leverage they need to drive new laws at the state level.

According to national traffic data from the first three quarters of 2012, roadway fatalities increased more than 7 percent over the same period in 2011. That represents the largest single-year increase since 1975.

Those numbers have been coupled with the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety’s annual grades on how well states are implementing a set of 15 law recommendations designed to improve traffic safety. Overall, 14 states received a “green” grade for making sufficient progress toward adopting the full list of recommendations. Six states, however, are severely delayed in turning those recommendations into law.

The rest of the states received a “yellow” distinction for making moderate progress. No state has adopted all 15 recommendations yet.

Advocates are hoping the recent statistics boost the total number of state-level laws that go into effect this year. While 22 such laws were passed in 2010, this past year saw only 10 new laws added.

It remains to be seen how strongly lawmakers will respond to the increased rates of traffic fatalities across the country. Proponents of stronger traffic-safety legislation are hoping that the spike in deaths scares many lawmakers into realizing their needs to be tougher regulation of roadway behavior to cut down on accidents and save lives.

Source: USA Today, “Group: Strong road-safety laws are lagging in states,” Larry Copeland, Jan. 15, 2013