The “16 Lifesaving Laws” Pursued by the Advocates
Based on government and private research, crash data and state experience, Advocates has determined the traffic safety laws listed below are critical to reducing motor vehicle deaths and injuries. For the purposes of this report, states are only given credit if the state law meets the optimal safety provisions as defined below. No credit is given for laws that fail to fully meet the criteria in this report. Also, no credit is given for laws that are subject to secondary enforcement or for GDL laws that permit an exemption based on driver education programs.
- Primary Enforcement Front Seat Belt Law – Allows law enforcement officers to stop and ticket the driver for a violation of the seat belt law for front seat occupants. No other violation need occur first. (Ratings are based on front seat occupants only.) A state that does not have this law, in addition to a primary enforcement rear seat belt law, cannot receive a green overall rating.
- Primary Enforcement Rear Seat Belt Law – Requires that all occupants in the rear seat of a vehicle wear seat belts and allows law enforcement officers to stop and ticket the driver for a violation of the seat belt law. No other violation need occur first. (Ratings are based on rear seat occupants only.) A state that does not have this law, in addition to a primary enforcement front seat belt law, cannot receive a green overall rating.
- All-Rider Motorcycle Helmet Law – Requires all motorcycle riders, regardless of age, to use a helmet that meets U.S. DOT standards or face a violation. A state that has repealed an existing all-rider motorcycle helmet law in the previous 10 years cannot achieve a green overall rating.
Child Passenger Safety
- Rear Facing Through Age 2 Law – Requires infants and toddlers to remain in a rear facing child restraint system in the rear seat from birth through age two or longer. After the child reaches the maximum weight and height limit for the rear facing safety seat, the child may be placed forward facing in a harness-equipped child restraint system. The child restraint system should be certified by the manufacturer to meet U.S. DOT safety standards.
- Booster Seat Law – Requires that children who have outgrown the height and weight limit of a forward facing safety seat be placed in a booster seat that should be used until the child can properly use the vehicle’s seat belt when the child reaches 57 inches in height and age eight. The booster seat should be certified by the manufacturer to meet U.S. DOT safety standards.
GDL programs allow teen drivers to learn to drive under lower risk conditions, and consist of a learner’s stage, then an intermediate stage, before being granted an unrestricted license. The learner’s stage requires teen drivers to complete a minimum number of months of adult-supervised driving in order to move to the next phase and drive unsupervised. The intermediate stage restricts teens from driving in high-risk situations for a specified period of time before receiving an unrestricted license. Advocates recommends that the three-phase GDL program be no less than one year in duration, though this is not considered in the ratings. Advocates rates state GDL laws on six key safety components identified in research and data analysis:
- Learner’s Stage: Minimum Age 16 for Learner’s Permit – A beginning teen driver is prohibited from obtaining a learner’s permit until the age of 16. States have not been given credit if the law allows for a beginning driver to obtain a learner’s permit before the age of 16.
- Learner’s Stage: 6-Month Holding Period Provision – A beginning teen driver must be supervised by an adult licensed driver at all times during the learner’s stage. If the learner remains citation-free for 6 months, he or she may progress to the intermediate stage. States have not been given credit if the length of the holding period is less than 6 months, or if there is a reduction in the length of the holding period for drivers who take a driver education course.
- Learner’s Stage: 50 Hours of Supervised Driving Provision – A beginning teen driver must receive at least 50 hours of behind-the-wheel training, 10 of which must be at night, with an adult licensed driver during the learner’s stage. States have not been given credit if the number of required supervised driving hours is less than 50, does not require 10 hours of night driving, or if there is a reduction in the required number of hours of supervised driving (to less than 50 hours) for drivers who take a driver education course.
Intermediate Stage: Nighttime Driving Restriction Provision – Unsupervised driving should be prohibited from at least 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. States have not been given credit if the nighttime driving restriction does not span the entire 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. minimum time range for all days of the week.
- Intermediate Stage: Passenger Restriction Provision – This provision limits the number of passengers who may legally ride with a teen driver without adult supervision. The optimal limit is no more than one non-familial passenger younger than age 21.
- Age 18 for Unrestricted License – A teen driver is prohibited from obtaining an unrestricted license until the age of 18, and either the nighttime or the passenger restrictions, or both, must last until age 18 and meet the definition for an optimal law. States have not been given credit if teen drivers can obtain an unrestricted license before age 18.
- Ignition Interlock Devices (IIDs) for All-Offenders – This law mandates the installation of IIDs on the vehicles of all convicted drunk driving offenders. Without an optimal IID law, a state is deemed red for the impaired driving rating.
- Child Endangerment Law – This law either creates a separate offense or enhances an existing penalty for an impaired driving offender who endangers a minor. No credit is given if this law applies only to drivers who are under 21 years of age.
- Open Container Law – This law prohibits open containers of alcohol in the passenger area of a motor vehicle. To comply with federal requirements, the law must: prohibit both possession of any open alcoholic beverage container and the consumption of alcohol from an open container; apply to the entire passenger area of any motor vehicle; apply to all vehicle occupants except for passengers of buses, taxi cabs, limousines or persons in the living quarters of motor homes; apply to vehicles on the shoulder of public highways; and, require primary enforcement of the law. State laws are counted in this report only if they are in compliance with the federal law and regulation, based on annual determinations made by U.S. DOT.
- All-Driver Text Messaging Restriction – This law prohibits all drivers from sending, receiving, or reading a text message from any handheld or electronic data communication device, except in an emergency.
- GDL Cell Phone Restriction – This restriction prohibits all use of cellular devices (hand-held, hands-free and text messaging) by beginning teen drivers, except in an emergency. States are only given credit if the provision lasts for the entire duration of the GDL program (both learner’s and intermediate stages).
ALSO SEE: Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety – 2020 Roadmap Report
Comments from Road Safety USA
Firstly, we are very puzzled as to why the Advocates do not mention don’t recommend a ban on hand-held phones in respect of all drivers.
Secondly, it is well worth adding the fact that by not having laws across the entire country requiring seat belt use by people in all seats of a vehicle, and by not requiring crash helmet use by all motorcyclists, the USAS effectively relegates itself to the status of a third-world country, because once again this puts America behind all other developed countries in terms of road safety.
You can read the full Roadmap Report at: https://saferoads.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/Advocates-for-Highway-and-Auto-Safety-2020-Roadmap-of-State-Highway-Safety-Laws.pdf