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Alabama Lagging in Effort to Reduce Traffic Accident Risks

Jan 24, 2013 - Car Accidents, Tuscaloosa by

When it comes to road safety, Alabama has a long way to go, according to a newly-released national study by the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety. straightahead

Our Tuscaloosa car accident attorneys note the 10th annual study, called the “2013 Roadmap of State Highway Safety Laws,” has been released. Unfortunately, there are a number of improvements our legislators have yet to enact, including graduated driver’s licensing laws, measures bolstering booster seat laws, stronger cell phone limitations, and the requirement of ignition interlock devices for all DUI offenders.

Overall, Alabama ranked “yellow” (out of a possible green, yellow or red), meaning we have made advancements in recent years, but still have numerous gaps in our highway safety laws. To look at it another way, researchers rated our road safety legislation for 2012 with an 8 out of a possible 15 points.

It’s urgent that we do more to address shortfalls because after the end of this year, federal funding that provides incentives and benefits for passing certain road safety laws is likely to dry up.

Last summer, Congress passed legislation entitled: Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21). This was a two-year transportation authorization act, which allowed for billions of dollars in grants and matching funds to states that took initiatives and passed certain safety advancements.

Those improved measures included:

  • Laws specifically geared toward addressing the dangers of teen driving, impaired and distracted driving, seat belts and child booster seats.
  • Motor coach and motor carrier safety improvements, expanded oversight and tougher penalties for companies that overload vehicles.
  • The requirement of interstate buses and trucks to digitize log books to ensure accurate hours of service rules are enforced, which would ultimately serve to reduce driver fatigue and related crashes.
  • Child safety seat measures that would include rear seat belt and unattended child reminders, improvement of the LATCH system and the regular compilation of state data on child safety seats in t-bone crashes.

But of course, as the researchers note, few states have moved on any of this. It makes little sense because not only is the federal government willing to fully cover the cost of these measures, the state would actually make money, which would be a much-needed boost to our coffers.

In Alabama, we had nearly 900 traffic fatalities in 2011, with a 10-year total of more than 10,200 lives lost. Our annual economic cost due to motor vehicle crashes (vehicle and property damage, workers’ compensation and disability, lost productivity, etc.) is at nearly $3 billion.

In order to reduce these figures and improve road safety in Alabama, researchers say we need to take the following specific steps:

  • Enact a child booster seat law for children through the age of 7;
  • Enhance graduated driver’s license laws requiring teens to be at least 16 for a learner’s permit, mandate 30 to 50 hours of supervised driving for new motorists, require stronger nighttime and cell phone restrictions and require drivers to be 18 before they can acquire an unrestricted license;
  • Require interlock ignition devices for ALL convicted drunk drivers – not just multiple offenders.

But it’s not all bad.

Alabama was credited last year with closing a loophole in our text messaging restrictions, which clarified what the law meant by “texting.” And we were given a “green” rating with regard to our motorcycle helmet law and the fact that state law does consider a lack of a seat belt a primary enforcement issue, meaning an officer can pull you over on that basis alone. (The latter is important because seat belts save an estimated 315 lives in Alabama annually – another 107 could be saved if they had worn seat belts.)

Additional Resources:

10th Annual Roadmap of State Highway Safety Laws, January 2012, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, Saferoads.org

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