The motorist trade group AAA (formerly known as the American Automobile Association) said it plans to make state laws that ban texting while driving and improve teen driver safety two of its top legislative priorities for this year, along with a renewed focus on furthering the spread of what’s known as “primary” seat belt laws.
AAA’s renewed push to get all 50 states to ban texting while driving is part of long-term effort that started back in 2009. Five states enacted these laws in 2011, increasing the number of states to 35 with laws prohibiting all drivers from texting, the group said, and AAA expects nearly every one of the 15 remaining states to consider this legislation in 2012.
“Last month’s NTSB [National Transportation Safety Board] recommendation will lead state legislatures to consider a range of bills to address distracted driving during 2012,” noted Kathleen Marvaso, AAA’s vp-public affairs, in a statement.
“Few states have given serious legislative consideration to full cell phone bans, but AAA expects continued progress in our campaign to pass laws banning texting while driving in all 50 states,” she said. That effort also includes enacting full wireless bans for new teen drivers and laws that increase penalties for drivers who crash or commit violations while driving distracted, Marvaso added.
The group also plans to continue pushing for graduated driver licensing (GDL) for new teen drivers. While this legislative effort isn’t new, Marvaso said, nearly every state still has opportunities to improve these laws that save lives and reduce crashes by easing teens into driving.
The group feels 2012 offers opportunities for states to improve teenage driver safety by 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 six states (Delaware, Indiana, Michigan, New York, Oklahoma, and West Virginia) have GDL systems that meet AAA’s guidelines for nighttime limits, passenger limits, and practice requirements, Marvaso pointed out.
The group’s other legislative priorities for 2012 include:
Primary seat belt laws: AAA plans to keep working to improve laws in the remaining 18 states without a primary belt law, as well as attempt to increase fines in some states with weak penalties and expand seat belt requirements to include back seat passengers in remaining states. 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: Every state except Hawaii and the District of Columbia requires drivers to slow down and, if safe, “move over” when passing an emergency vehicle that is actively working on a roadway. Additionally, 45 states, including Arizona, New York and Texas, which improved their laws in 2011, also require drivers to move over for tow trucks. AAA will continue to promote these laws in the remaining states.