A new report on highway safety says more states have a dangerous lack of basic safety laws than have strong safety regulations.
Eleven states received a red rating, reflecting poor protections, while 10 received a green rating, according to the report from Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, a coalition of business and safety groups. The remaining states got a yellow rating meaning they showed moderate adoption of optimal safety laws.
The report draws a direct line between regulation and lives saved. In 2012, for example, seat belts saved an estimated 12,174 lives of passengers aged five and older, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. And use of seat belts rose in states that passed laws giving officers the ability to issue tickets for not wearing belts even if another offense hadnt first taken place, according to the report. Only 17 give officers that flexibility regardless of where an individual is sitting in the car. New Hampshire is the only state without a seat belt law.
The states were ranked based on adoption of the 15 safety laws considered optimal by the rating organization. The laws included those restricting driver text messaging; requiring booster seats for children or helmets for all motorcycle riders; and allowing officers to ticket individuals sitting either in the front or the back for not wearing a seat belt without another offense having first taken place. There were also seven regulations related to teen driving and another three related to impaired driving.
Illinois and Oregon led the top states by number of safety laws in place, with 12 each. South Dakota had the fewest safety laws in place. The two regulations there restrict nighttime driving among teens and prohibit open containers.
Two laws were far and away the least-adopted: Just eight states and D.C. have set 16 as the minimum age to get a learners permit and only 11 have nighttime restrictions on teen driving.
The states that got the top ranking were: California, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Maine, Oregon, Rhode Island and Washington. (D.C. did as well.) The states with red ratings were Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Iowa, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming.