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Green states have the most stringent traffic laws, yell... Green states have the most stringent traffic laws, yellow states are mediocre and red states are the weakest. (Graphic: Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety).
More Americans are dying in traffic accidents. Fewer laws are being passed to protect them. Those are the conclusions of a traffic safety group that monitors state-by-state efforts to regulate the rules of the road.

There were 33,561 people killed on U.S. roads in 2013, an increase of 3.3 percent over the prior year, according to government statistics. At the same time, as deaths were increasing for the first time in seven years, lawmakers only passed 10 new safety laws, according to the annual report issued by Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety. That's down from 22 the previous year.

"Are they doing enough? A strong no," said Catherine Chase, one of the board members. "There's been a reversal in a long trend of declining traffic deaths and state activity is on the decline."

She says deadly gaps remain in state laws, noting there are more than 300 needed across the country to patch the holes. Each year, the group tracks state-by-state laws that cover areas it sees as essential to saving lives: occupant protection, booster seats for kids, teen-driving programs, drunk driving, distracted driving and motorcycle helmet usage.

They then assign each state a color that indicates whether the state's laws are advanced (green), mediocre (yellow) or weak (red). Ten states earned the highest marks this year: California, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Maine, Oregon, Rhode Island and Washington.

Eleven earned the red rating for having "a dangerous lack of basic safety laws," the report said: Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Iowa, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming.

Three states – Hawaii, Indiana and Maine – improved their ratings from last year's report. Hawaii jumped because it passed laws that mandated rear passengers be buckled in seat belts and strengthened graduated-drivers licensing laws aimed at keeping teen drivers safe.

Alabama, Florida, Iowa and New Hampshire fell into the worst group, in part because they have no laws that allow primary enforcement of rear seatbelt laws. No state has all 15 of the safety laws that the group recommends.

"Lives are lost, and lifelong, debilitating injuries are occurring because of inaction and indifference," Chase said.

Of most concern to Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, a nonprofit comprised of safety, insurance and consumer advocates, were 19 different attempts to repeal mandatory helmet laws for motorcyclists in 2013. Deaths among motorcyclists have increased in each of the past three years. Last year, they rose 7.1 percent as 4,743 motorcyclists were killed. Ten times as many died riding without helmets in states that do not require their use than in states that have mandatory laws, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

"We're losing ground on that issue," said Joan Claybrook, former NHTSA administrator and board member of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety. "Every year more universal helmet laws come under attack, despite the fact motorcycle deaths have jumped."

Pete Bigelow is an associate editor at AOL Autos. He can be reached via email at peter.bigelow@teamaol.com and followed on Twitter @PeterCBigelow.


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  • 89 Comments
      richatodd
      • 1 Year Ago
      I live in Florida and if they would just enforce existing laws such as no texting while driving, phone use while driving without a hands free device, stoping for red lights, etc. it would be a lot safer here. People talking on handsets and texting is common, and stopping for red lights when the turn or before seems an option. The police drive just as badly as many others. However they show up in droves after accidents happen.
      • 1 Year Ago
      the stats may be skewed by the immigrant population, both those who drive and those walking. i have seen numerous immigrant folks walking on highways at night in black, walking right into traffic on busystreets walking through busy intersections against the light, driving way too fast, not looking at turns and not using turnsignals at all , ever!!!. this is not bashing immigrants , but i suspect that they have habits from their country that they dont even know are dangerous. and they get hit and hit other folks.
      kz1952
      • 1 Year Ago
      Earlier comment below "Why does the government think more laws protect people? If a person has no common sense let them suffer." This attitude is even worse than the stupid driver, lets let them kill your family and then see how your statement stacks up!!!! Driving is NOT a right!!! it is a privilege your are allowed if you obey the laws and drive safely. If not you can be held liable for both criminal and financial cost related to the stupid acts!!!! What they really need to do is start bringing cases against the cities, counties, states, federal government and Automakers for not protecting drivers and allowing these negligent drivers on the roads. If they do not pass laws to stop auto makers for making it easier to distract drivers, allowing TV, Video, phones, etc, then they are just as negligent as the bad driver that uses them! This article also doesn't cover the cost of accidents were damage is done to the vehicles because of the same negligent distraction. All this cost is then passed onto us in insurance cost. either auto, medical or liability. And the powers to be ignoring it all, sit back on cruse control with the attitude like the comments mentioned above. If they understand they are not going to have a job if they don't get off there ---- and do something worth while. Our we start showing them how much they are costing us because they won't do there job. Things might change! You can't stay in office if your made to look bad continually, eventually they get up and do something or there gone!
      hobbs74
      • 1 Year Ago
      They've got it backwards. The best states for traffic laws are red, the worst green.
        Doug
        • 1 Year Ago
        @hobbs74
        Correct..........
        hobbs74
        • 1 Year Ago
        @hobbs74
        Like we need any more traffic laws in this country. In California the laws are passed and signed behind peoples backs and your first knowledge of the law is when you get busted for it. There's a new one this year, if you turn your wipers on, you must turn on your headlights, just one example of their petty laws. But I'm sure it will be a real moneymaker. In Ohio, the freeways are one big speedtrap. I drove through there last year and every five miles was a highway patrolman writing somebody a ticket. Can anybody tell me how many highway patrolmen and patrol cars Ohio has? The only new laws we need are more stringent drivers license reqirements. There's some real dummies on the road.
          TruckerGeoff1
          • 1 Year Ago
          @hobbs74
          If you listen to most truckers - - - Ohio has DECREASED their State Police force to only one Trooper for every other mile marker on the Interstates! (P.S. I'm a retired trucker who lived in Ohio for 55 years!).
      • 1 Year Ago
      Please tell us more. What are the standards which were used for the survey? What is the correlation between the various standards and vehicle accident/fatality/injury rates? There is not enough information in this article to draw conclusions.
        Eric
        • 1 Year Ago
        The "standards" were....will this "article" bring in readers, who equate to "hits", which equates to revenue. Other than that, not much in scientific control or inclusion of other factors.
      Mitch
      • 1 Year Ago
      I live in a suburb of Buffalo NY, the law against texting is a joke, nobody obeys it. If every town were to add a unmarked policed car and ticket texting drivers, it would more than pay for the car and officer. It is time to take it seriously. After riding motorcycle for over 45 years, I am selling it when the snow melts......too many close calls over the last couple of years.
      jcnspots
      • 1 Year Ago
      There are a LOT fewer people dying in car wrecks now than there was 20-30 years ago when it was well over 40,000 annually.
        Eric
        • 1 Year Ago
        @jcnspots
        Yep. As it turns out, all the laws and safety features are working as intended. More cars on the roads, less deaths and injuries being reported.
      Little Savage
      • 1 Year Ago
      More laws is always the answer. They have laws against murder, and, boy, howdy, do they work. Laws against drug abuse, and we all know that those laws are working stupendously. Laws against pretty much everything, and I do mean everything, that is why all of the prisons across the Police States of America are stone empty. More laws than Russia, China, and North Korea combined, and more prisoners than Russia, China and North Korea combined, also. Ahhh, the land of free, but we sure do need more laws. I have never been really sure why we don't just send our complete paychecks to the courts, they are going to steal it anyway. Must be nice, not having to work, and getting everybody else's cash anyway.
      Ben Holliday
      • 1 Year Ago
      Seems like many worry about texting and driving and rightful so, but I observe everyday about 90% of people never stop at a stop sign, some charge the sign and gun it no matter what is there. And a yellow light means hurry, and the red light means go faster. Right on red is legal but at least 90% of the people I see forget about the after stop part. I watched a car 4 to 5 car links behind me blow though a red light I stopped for, I was going 50 and had no trouble stopping, about a 1/2 mile ahead he was stooped at the next light, I guess because the cars in front of him stopped, I pulled up beside him, now how much time did he save by running the red light? Think about it, it could have killed someone because he was in a rush. Red lights and stop signs mean to stop the car from moving not slow down and go or speed up to get by.
      mickylitz2
      • 1 Year Ago
      Alabama, Florida, Iowa and New Hampshire fell into the worst group, in part because they have no laws that allow primary enforcement of rear seatbelt laws. No state has all 15 of the safety laws that the group recommends* ********************************** I know that many will disagree but they never will tell you how many people died and will die because of seat belts... .Another example that the government brainwashing machine in co-hoot with companies making the products is alive and well..
        donnacave
        • 1 Year Ago
        @mickylitz2
        Usually in the report of a car crash it is stated whether or not the fatalities were or were not wearing seatbelts. Also, from working in the ER, when we have someone with a broken collarbone we know that a seatbelt saved their lives. If not for the seatbelt, the force that broke the collar bone would have caused the head of the person to be propelled through the windshield causing brain damage or death. If not mandated by law many stupid people would choose not to wear them. But please be sure your children are properly belted in or using a baby or booster seat in the back seat.
      Eric
      • 1 Year Ago
      This information is lacking any connection to other factors in driving deaths. Enforcement of existing laws...where is the data on that? Road conditions, both physical and enviromental....why is that not included? Driver training requirements....absent. Age groups have an effect on statistics. Tourist destinations have an influence. Laws alone are not the cause nor cure to traffic fatalities.
        bwhitedjr
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Eric
        You are correct. However, more laws are the answer to the states financial woes.
      jer43r
      • 1 Year Ago
      If you want to drive drunk come to Wisconsin this State just gives a slap on the wrist to Drunk Drivers.
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