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Safety Group Warns That Fatalities Will Rise If Policy Is Ignored

For about a decade, the number of fatal motor vehicle accidents in Pennsylvania and the rest of the country were on the decline. However, according to preliminary data from 2012, highway fatalities are starting to rise and safety advocates warn that they could keep going up unless action is taken.

In fact, last month the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that highway fatalities were 7.1 percent higher during the first nine months of 2012 than they were during the first nine months of 2011. The NHTSA reported that this was the largest year-over-year increase for that time period since 1975.

The non-profit group Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety said it believes complacency on behalf of state lawmakers is to blame for the increase in highway deaths. The group says that state lawmakers have put traffic safety laws on the backburner because deaths fell for the past decade or so.

“We’ve all become sort of complacent in putting new laws on the books because highway deaths were going down,” said the president of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety. “I think this is a real wake-up call.”

Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety has put together a list of 15 traffic laws that the group defines as essential to promoting highway safety. They address seatbelt usage, drunk driving and teen driving, in addition to several other safety concerns. The group then ranks each state each year according to compliance with the recommendations.

In its most recent assessment, the group determined that no states have adopted all 15 of the laws as of yet, but 14 states were ranked as “significantly advanced” in adopting the laws. However, it noted that six states were falling “dangerously behind” in the laws. Pennsylvania was graded as a state that is “advancing but has numerous gaps in its highway safety laws.”

The president of the group said that in 2010, state lawmakers passed a total of 22 new traffic safety laws, but last year that number fell to just 10. Hopefully, lawmakers are inspired to pay more attention to these important laws in 2013.

Source: USA TODAY, “Group: Strong road-safety laws are lagging in states,” Larry Copeland, Jan. 15, 2013