Traffic Safety Trends: State Legislative Action 2014

Anne Teigen, Douglas Shinkle, Amanda Essex 2/27/2015


Traffic on a HighwayIssues examined in this report include occupant protection, distracted driving, driver licensing, impaired driving, aggressive driving, speed limits, motorcycle helmets, automated enforcement, school bus safety, and pedestrian and bicycle safety. Tables and charts detailing state traffic safety laws are included; as are contacts and links for further information (Appendix A contains National Highway Traffic Safety Administration [NHTSA] regional office contact information). All bills discussed in this report can be found in the NCSL - NHTSA Traffic Safety Legislative Tracking Database.

PDF Version Download 


Occupant Protection. Nearly every state considered bills to strengthen seat belt laws or child passenger protection laws in 2014. These proposals included efforts to enact primary enforcement of existing seat belt laws and to change height and weight requirements for child restraint use.

Impaired Driving Issues. In 2014, lawmakers in 47 states introduced more than 400 bills related to impaired driving. They considered legislation related to stricter penalties for high blood alcohol concentration (BAC), ignition interlocks, breath testing procedures, treatment and drugged driving.

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 2014, legislators in 45 states considered over 200 driver distraction bills.

Driver Licensing. Each year, state legislatures debate hundreds of bills relating to various aspects of driver licensing, including REAL ID, unlicensed driving, driver’s licenses for military veterans, older drivers and teen drivers.

Speed Limits. In 2014, 37 states considered bills regarding speed, including increasing fines for speeding, setting speed limits, and punishing serious speeding offenders in school or work zones.

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.

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 2014, legislators in 25 states debated nearly 100 bills regarding automated speed and red light enforcement.

Motorcycle Safety. During the 2014 legislative session, 37 states considered approximately 150 bills related to motorcycle helmets or rider training.

School Bus Safety. In 2014, 130 bills regarding school bus safety were considered in state legislatures across the country. Many dealt with penalties for drivers who illegally pass school buses and licensing procedures for school bus drivers.

Slow and Medium Speed Vehicles. In 2014, nine states passed legislation related to slow and medium-speed vehicles. Three pieces of legislation were related to regulation of golf carts.

Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety. Pedestrians and bicyclists are among the most vulnerable users of roadways. In 2014, 41 states considered more than 200 bills regarding pedestrian and bicycle safety. 

Additional Resources