State Highway Safety Laws Rated
By Kathleen Murphy, Staff Writer
Wyoming, Montana, West Virginia and Rhode Island have the worst highway safety laws in the nation, according to a report issued Dec. 16 by the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety.
North Carolina, California, New Jersey, Tennessee and Washington have the best safety laws, the report said. The report looked at laws regulating seat belts, motorcycle helmets, child booster seats, teen driving and drunken driving.
The report found 29 states lack laws that allow police officers to ticket motorists just for not wearing their seat belts -- so-called "primary enforcement" laws. Tennessee was the only state in 2004 to pass such a law, which increases seat belt usage by 10 percent to 15 percent, the report said.
Thirty states lack all-rider motorcycle helmet laws, the report said. Louisiana reinstated its helmet law in 2004 after seeing motorcycle deaths double since its law's repeal in 1999.
Booster seats for children ages 4 to 8 are not required in 42 states. Most states require booster seat laws that cover children up to age 5, 6 or 7. Six states passed booster seat laws in 2004: Indiana and North Carolina passed a booster seat law affecting 8-year-olds, and Georgia, Iowa, New York and Oklahoma passed less restrictive laws.
The report also advocated graduated drivers' licenses that require supervised driving for teens. And it called for stronger laws on impaired driving, such as bans on open containers of alcoholic beverages in cars. Thirty-six states have open-container laws that comply with the federal standard.
A Harris poll accompanying the report showed public support for state laws that improve highway safety. The 2004 poll showed at least 80 percent of respondents favored laws requiring seat belts, booster seats and motorcycle helmets. About 87 percent supported drunken driving prevention, and 80 percent favored sobriety checkpoints.