Our Montgomery personal injury lawyers note a recent national report details the activity of each state legislature over the past year as it relates to car accident prevention and highway safety.
Alabama didn't fare as well as we would have hoped. It was given a mid-level "yellow light" rating by the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, which released its "2013 Roadmap of State Highway Safety Laws" earlier this month.
The state had nearly 900 fatalities attributed to car accidents in 2011, bringing the 10-year total to more than 10,200. Every year, that costs the state an average of $2.8 billion, not only in property damage, but in emergency services, hospitalization, lost wages and disability benefits.
This alone should be enough of an incentive to spur action by our elected representatives. But adding to the persuasion is the fact that federal money is available through the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (or MAP-21) for those states that are successful in the passage of certain traffic safety initiatives. Last year, the federal government approved setting aside billions of dollars for this specific purpose.
When you consider the funds taxpayers have to shell out due to motor vehicle crashes each year (more than $230 billion nationwide), it makes a great deal of sense. That's in addition to the fact that more than 32,000 people were killed in America in car crashes in 2011, another 2.2 million were injured and traffic accidents remained the No. 1 cause of death for young people between the ages of 5 and 24. In fact, some 1,150 children under the age of 14 were killed in motor vehicle accidents in 2011.
Alabama is not the only state with work to do. The advocacy group notes that there are 316 laws that need to be adopted in all states and the District of Columbia in order to meet the research group's recommendations for basic safety laws. These measures touch on everything from driver cell phone restrictions to motorcycle helmet requirements to graduated driver's licenses for teens.
Specifically in Alabama, we have our work cut out for us. The recommended laws that we have yet to pass include:
- A law requiring children age 7 and younger to ride in a booster and/or car seat;
- A graduated driver's license program for teens that would include provision for 30 to 50 hours of supervised driving, an age 16 minimum for learner's permits, tighter nighttime restrictions, stronger cell phone restrictions and an age 18 minimum for an unrestricted license;
- Ignition interlock requirements for all DUI offenders - not just those with multiple arrests and convictions.
Booster seat laws have been shown to reduce the risk of injury in children ages 5 to 7 by nearly 60 percent. Those in side-impact crashes were found to benefit the most, with the risk of injury reduced by nearly 70 percent.
With regard to teen driving, we know that young teens (15, 16 and 17) are far more likely than older drivers (even their 18 and 19-old peers) to get into motor vehicle crashes. A lot of that is due to inexperience. That's why graduated driver's license programs are so important. They allow teens to gradually gain the skills needed to be safe drivers.
And lastly, ignition interlock requirements for all DUI offenders should be a no-brainer. If you drive drunk, that's the price you should have to pay. Some people have taken the stance that first-time offenders shouldn't be dealt with as harshly because they may be social drinkers who made a mistake. But Mothers Against Drunk Driving reports that most offenders, by the time they receive their first DUI, have already made roughly 90 trips behind the wheel while impaired. The rest of us should not be giving a free pass to those who put all of our lives in danger.