NMA E-Newsletter #159: Another Case of Quantity over Quality

Residents in Arizona, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Ohio, South Dakota, Virginia, and Wyoming should be ashamed of themselves.

Why? They simply haven’t passed enough traffic safety laws, according to a report from the Advocates for Highway and Automotive Safety (Advocates). The group ranked all 50 states based on the number of basic traffic safety laws they had on the books. States got higher marks for having more laws pertaining to things like primary seatbelt enforcement, mandatory helmet requirements, interlock devices for first-time DUI offenders and cell phones/texting.

The report goes to great lengths to demonstrate that safer roads lead to fewer accidents and reduced medical costs. This seems obvious. Less obvious is how the passage of more laws will lead to safer roads. After somberly laying out a series of national accident statistics, the report concludes, “An additional 348 new laws need to be adopted in all states and D.C. to fully meet the group’s safety law recommendations.”

The report also ignores a key indicator of roadway safety – fatality rates – which, according to NHTSA, have been steadily declining since the 1995 repeal of the 55 mph National Maximum Speed Limit. Acknowledging this would severely hinder the group’s (and the media’s) efforts to portray America’s roads as increasingly dangerous and America’s drivers as scofflaws.

In an interview with an Ohio public radio station, the group’s president admitted, “We didn’t look at fatalities … we just looked at how well states were doing in passing what we consider some of the most basic highway safety laws.” This approach ignores what’s going on in the real world and leads to misguided policymaking.

Take Ohio. The report lambasts the state for its “dangerous lack” of basic safety laws. Yet, even with a secondary seatbelt law, Ohio’s 2009 fatality rate was far below the average of all states with primary seatbelt legislation.

Rather than targeting Ohio, maybe Advocates should be looking at constructive ways to improve roadway safety in states like North Carolina, Louisiana, and Kansas. These states had 2009 fatality rates far above Ohio, yet still ranked at the top of Advocates’ list because they had passed more laws.

So what good is Advocates’ ranking system if it doesn’t identify true safety needs or offer any real solutions? A clue comes from the group’s name. Many organizations with names that highlight “highway safety” or “safer roads,” etc., are backed by organizations with a vested interest in fomenting public hysteria and/or the passage of more restrictive traffic laws.

And Advocates for Highway and Automotive Safety is no exception. Its list of members includes top insurance companies, consumer safety groups and MADD. All of whom benefit from Advocates’ cynical agenda.

If you live in one of the states listed at the beginning of this article, Advocates may be coming to a media outlet near you. Take the time to review the issues so you can debunk their arguments when they do.

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