Texting Bans, Teen Driver Safety Top AAA’s State Legislative Priorities for 2011

WASHINGTON  (Profitable.com)  Laws that ban texting while driving and that improve safety for teen drivers top AAA’s agenda nationwide as state legislatures convene across the country for their 2011 sessions. AAA looks to build on a relatively successful campaign of traffic safety law improvements last year.

“Last year showed states’ strong commitment to traffic safety as nearly a dozen states enacted laws banning texting while driving, but there were also real safety improvements on core needs like teen driver safety, primary seat belt laws, and child passenger safety,” said AAA Vice President of Public Affairs Kathleen Marvaso. “AAA is working with legislators and other safety advocates in statehouses across the country to draft and pass legislation in 2011 that will make roads safer.

“As state legislatures grapple with another year of severe budget challenges, safety improvements are a low or no cost way that legislators can make their states better places to live. Laws that reduce crashes, injuries and deaths can help reduce governments’ medical and emergency response costs. In fact, some states could receive millions of dollars in financial incentives for passing some of these laws.”

AAA’s main traffic safety priorities in the states include:

Texting while driving bans: AAA in 2009 launched a national campaign to pass laws banning text messaging while driving in all 50 states. With 11 states having enacted these laws in 2010, there are now 30 states with laws prohibiting drivers of all ages from texting. AAA expects nearly every one of the 20 remaining states to consider this legislation in 2011.

Teen driver safety: Although every state has some form of graduated driver licensing for new teen drivers, nearly every state still has opportunities to improve these lifesaving laws, according to AAA.  States such as Alabama, Louisiana, Michigan, and Oklahoma made significant improvements in 2010, such as increasing the age and requirements for getting a license, banning the use of wireless communications devices for novice drivers, and adding or improving limits on teen passengers and nighttime driving for newly licensed teens. Just five states (Delaware, Indiana, New York, Oklahoma and West Virginia) have graduated driver licensing systems that meet AAA’s guidelines for nighttime limits, passenger limits, and practice requirements.  

Booster seat laws: Three states (Arizona, Florida and South Dakota) lack booster seat requirements, which have been shown to improve safety for young passengers. Colorado enacted a law in 2010 to allow the primary enforcement of its booster seat requirement. Booster seat laws in 21 states still fall short of meeting safety experts’ guidelines, which includes all children under age 8.

Primary seat belt laws: After a record-setting year in 2009, 2010 saw modest gains as Kansas improved its seat belt law to allow primary enforcement by police and Georgia closed a loophole in its law that exempted pickup truck occupants from the state’s seat belt requirement. AAA and other safety advocates will continue to work to improve laws in the remaining 19 states without a primary belt law, as well as attempt to increase fines in some states with weak penalties. Primary seat belt laws have repeatedly been shown as a low cost way for states to quickly increase belt use, reduce traffic deaths, and lower the cost of crashes.  

Move over laws: Nearly every state (49 states) has a law that requires drivers to slow down and, if safe, “move over” when passing an emergency vehicle that is actively working on a roadway. Virginia improved its law in 2010 to include tow trucks and other road service vehicles, increasing the number of states with these more comprehensive laws to 39. AAA will continue to promote these laws that have been shown to improve safety for police, tow truck operators, and others who work on our roadways.

As North America’s largest motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA provides more than 52 million members with travel, insurance, financial and automotive-related services. Since its founding in 1902, the not-for-profit, fully tax-paying AAA has been a leader and advocate for the safety and security of all travelers. AAA clubs can be visited on the Internet at AAA.com.

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