Traffic Safety and Public Health: State Legislative Action, 2010 

baby safetyDecember 2010, No. 35
By Melissa A. Savage and Anne Teigen

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This report summarizes the many bills regarding traffic safety issues that were considered by state legislatures during the 2010 legislative sessions. It also provides information about current traffic safety issues.

NCSL can provide expert testimony to legislative committees on topics related to traffic safety and injury prevention. Contact Anne Teigen.

Occupant Protection. At least 26 states considered bills to strengthen seat belt laws in 2010. These proposals included efforts to enact primary enforcement of existing seat belt laws and changing requirements for child restraint use.

Impaired Driving Issues. In 2010, lawmakers in 46 states introduced more than 300 bills related to impaired driving. They considered legislation related to stricter penalties for high blood alcohol concentration (BAC), ignition interlocks, breath tests and treatment.

Distracted Driving. Since 2000, legislatures in every state, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico have considered legislation related to distracted driving and driver cell phone use. In 2010, legislators in 40 states considered 181 driver distraction bills.

Driver’s Licensing. Each year, state legislatures debate hundreds of bills relating to various aspects of driver licensing, including REAL ID, unlicensed driving, older drivers and teen drivers. In 2010, 40 states debated more than 200 bills relating to drivers licensing.

Aggressive Driving. Laws in 10 states penalize aggressive drivers. Hand gestures, shouting, speeding, tailgating, driving on the shoulder, weaving in and out of traffic, or any combination of these activities may fall within the definition of aggressive driving.

Speed Limits. In 2010, 21 states considered bills regarding speed, including increased fines for speeding, setting speed limits, and punishing serious speeding offenders.

Automated Enforcement. Because law enforcement agencies struggle with limited resources, many municipal governments have turned to automated enforcement to control speed and reduce red light violations without diverting law enforcement resources from other areas. During 2010, legislators in 28 states debated nearly 100 bills regarding automated enforcement.

Motorcycle Safety. During the 2010 legislative session, 38 states considered more than 100 bills related to motorcycle helmets or driver training.

School Bus Safety. In 2010, nearly 60 bills regarding school bus safety were considered in state legislatures across the country. Many dealt with requiring children to wear seat belts on school buses and licensing procedures for school bus drivers.

Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety. For many pedestrians and bicyclists, safety is a major concern. In 2010, 34 states considered more than 100 bills regarding pedestrian and bicycle safety. Many addressed educating motorists about responsibilities at crosswalks and on roadways. Other proposals considered ways to increase safety near schools.