Traffic Safety and Public Health: State Legislative Action, 2009

red stop lightFebruary 2010, No. 34
By Melissa A. Savage, Anne Teigen and Nicholas Farber

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This report summarizes the many bills regarding traffic safety issues that were considered by state legislatures during the 2009 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. More than 100 occupant protection bills were debated in statehouses across the country in 2009. These proposals included efforts to enact primary enforcement of existing seat belt laws to changing the requirements for child restraint use and passenger use of pickup truck cargo areas.

Impaired Driving Issues. In 2009, lawmakers in 46 states introduced 229 bills related to impaired driving. They considered legislation ranging from stricter penalties for high blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to ignition interlocks, breath tests and treatment.

Distracted Driving. In 2009, 46 states considered nearly 200 bills related to distracted driving. Many considered prohibiting drivers from texting while driving, and 12 states passed such legislation in 2009.

Driver’s Licensing. State legislatures debated more than 200 bills regarding driver’s licensing issues, including REAL ID compliance, unlicensed driving, and licensing requirements for teens and older drivers.

Aggressive Driving. Hand gestures, shouting, speeding, tailgating, weaving in and out of traffic, driving on the shoulder, or any combination of these activities may fall within the definition of aggressive driving. In 2009, 13 states debated legislation related to aggressive driving.

Speed Limits. Legislators in 29 states considered bills regarding speed in 2009. Some proposals would have increased fines for speeding, while others involved setting highway speed limits and punishing speeders.

Automated Enforcement. During the 2009 legislative session, Legislators in 30 states debated bills regarding automated enforcement. Some bills delegated powers to municipalities or counties to use red light cameras, while other banned red light camera use completely.

Motorcycle Safety. State legislators debated 118 bills in 2009 states relating to motorcycle safety were considered in 2009. Most of these bills related to motorcycle helmet requirements or rider training requirements.

School Bus Safety.  Legislators in 33 states debated more than 100 bills regarding to school bus safety. Many dealt with licensing of school bus drivers, and some prohibited a school bus driver from using a cellular phone while operating the bus. Others require students to wear a seat belt while the bus is in motion.

Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety. Many people engage in walking, running and bicycling to maintain physical fitness and a healthy lifestyle but for many, safety is a major concern. Legislatures in 440 states considered pedestrian, bicycle and low speed vehicle safety bills.