The NCSL Blog


By Douglas Shinkle

According to the most recent data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 37,461 people died in traffic-related crashes in the United States in 2016.

car crashedStates have several potential policy and enforcement tools to help make their roads safer. State legislatures debated more than 2,000 traffic safety-related bills in 2017, according to NCSL’s Traffic Safety State Bill Tracking Database, and the traffic safety legal landscape varies widely from state to state.

For example, 27 states and the District of Columbia have mandatory ignition interlock provisions for all drunk-driving offenses, but the other 23 states do not require them for first offenders. Similarly, 16 states and D.C. have banned hand-held phone use by all drivers, but drivers in the other 34 states still can use a hand-held device while driving (except for texting, which is universally banned in 47 states).

And now the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has developed a tool to better understand how different traffic safety policies and enforcement techniques can impact traffic safety. The MV PICCS (Motor Vehicle Prioritizing Interventions and Cost Calculators for States), allows you to choose from 14 proven interventions, select a state, determine an overall budget and allocate (or not allocate) money from fines to pay for programming and enforcement.  Version 3.0 of the tool is now available.

The wide variance in state traffic laws presents options for states to adopt new laws and programs or refine existing ones. But laws by themselves do not automatically lead to safer roads or fewer crashes or saved lives. Enforcement of the laws is a critical piece. 

As an example of the type of information MV PICCS 3.0 can provide, I decided to run an intervention for NCSL’s home state of Colorado, which is one of 16 states without a primary seat belt law, which allows police officers to stop vehicles solely for a seat belt violation. I chose the Primary Enforcement Seat Belt Law intervention, put in a budget of $5 million and allocated the fine money.

MV PICCS determined this intervention would annually save 25 lives and prevent 2,385 injuries in Colorado. The total implementation would be $6.59 million, of which the money from fines for failing to buckle up would generate $2.15 million. The tool also determined that such an intervention would provide a monetary benefit of $94 million, based on “estimates of things like medical costs, lost productivity and insurance.”

MV PICCS is a powerful tool to help policymakers, traffic safety and public health professionals and other stakeholders determine which interventions might work best for their states and give them a comparative sense of their impact and cost. MV PICCS could potentially help legislators and legislative staff refine their state laws and strategies to address preventable traffic safety fatalities.

The interventions featured on MV PICCS (and associated fact sheets on each of them) include:

  1. Automated Red-Light Enforcement
  2. Automated Speed-Camera Enforcement
  3. Alcohol Interlocks
  4. Sobriety Checkpoints
  5. Saturation Patrols
  6. Bicycle Helmet Laws for Children
  7. Universal Motorcycle Helmet Laws
  1. Primary Enforcement of Seat Belt Laws
  2. High-Visibility Enforcement for Seat Belts and Child Restraint and Booster Laws
  3. License Plate Impoundment
  4. Limits on Diversion and Plea Agreements
  5. Vehicle Impoundment
  6. In-Person License Renewal
  7. Increased Fines for Seat Belt Use

Douglas Shinkle is NCSL’s Transportation Program Director and collaborates with NCSL’s Health Program to explore the intersections between transportation and public health. 

Email Douglas.

Posted in: Transportation
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About the NCSL Blog

This blog offers updates on the National Conference of State Legislatures' research and training, the latest on federalism and the state legislative institution, and posts about state legislators and legislative staff. The blog is edited by NCSL staff and written primarily by NCSL's experts on public policy and the state legislative institution.