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Report: Several states must do more to protect motorists

By Mark Chalon Smith on January 13th, 2012

Several states need to adopt texting, seat belt and motorcycle helmet laws to better protect drivers, according to a national group that focuses on highway safety issues.

Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety (AHAS) makes the case in its annual report, "2012 Roadmap on State Highway Safety Laws," recently released during a press conference in Washington, D.C.

The AHAS notes that 18 states do not restrict text messaging on cell phones, despite NHTSA evidence that distracted driving contributed to 3,092 deaths in 2010. The states are Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Virginia and West Virginia. The AHAS urges them to adopt laws controlling texting.

It also says 18 states don't have laws requiring all drivers and passengers to wear seat belts. Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Massachusetts, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia and Wyoming should quickly pass such regulations, according to the AHAS.

As for motorcycle-related injuries, the AHAS says deaths could be reduced by as much as 37 percent if all states required helmets. Eleven states do not, including Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Utah and Wyoming. Pointing to figures gathered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the report notes that motorcycle deaths and injuries cost $12 billion each year in hospital and other expenses.

The AHAS study bases much of its information on statistics gleaned from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) the CDC and other government agencies.

Crashes are the leading cause of death for all Americans between the ages of 5 and 34, according to Jacqueline Gillan, AHAS president.

Mark Rosekind, a member of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), says 5.4 million crashes in 2010 caused nearly 33,000 deaths and more than 2.2 million injuries. There are financial consequences as well. Rosekind says the accidents cost about $230 billion when all hospital, health insurance, auto insurance, lost productivity and other expenses are factored in.

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