2017 Roadmap of State Highway Safety Laws: Have We Forgotten What Saves Lives?

2017 Roadmap of State Highway Safety Laws: Have We Forgotten What Saves Lives?

Each year, noted experts gather together to evaluate the safety of roads in Indiana, Illinois, and the rest of the country.  They study how well traffic safety laws are working to keep people safe, as well as how dangerous some parts of the country are for drivers.  They have been doing this for the past fourteen years.

Have We Forgotten What Saves Lives?

This year, their latest analysis has been released under the title “Have We Forgotten What Saves Lives?”  You can read the complete 2017 safety report online here.

Collectively, the experts who published this report are known as the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety (AHAS).  AHAS is made up of consumer, health, and safety organizations as well as representatives of major insurance companies.  The alliance maintains a website at Saferoads.org.

In this study (which they call their “Roadmap”), all 50 states as well as the District of Columbia are reviewed and compared by the safety experts.  Then, each state is given its own individual examination of how safe, or how dangerous, its roads are for drivers today.

Additionally, the group makes suggestions for state lawmakers.  These include new laws designed to make traveling in that state less dangerous in various ways.

The legislative proposals are backed by research, and include a budget analysis.  Because, sadly, for some the biggest incentive in passing legislation that will make people safer is how the new law will save money. 

The 2017 Roadmap of State Highway Safety Laws

No state is without its dangers, according to the report.  However, some states are higher risks for serious injuries and fatal accidents than others.

Shockingly, the experts discovered that in many states, little if anything was done by lawmakers to try and increase traffic safety last year.  And more people are dying as a result.

From page one of the Report:

Final 2015 data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) showed that there were steep increases in fatalities for nearly every crash category including unbelted vehicle  occupants (five percent), motorcyclists (eight percent), pedestrians (10 percent), teen drivers  (10 percent), impaired and distracted drivers (three and nine percent) and children (six percent). These numbers are both alarming and unacceptable.

The problem is clear – too many lives are lost, serious injuries sustained and needless costs incurred because of motor vehicle crashes.…

Areas of Concern: The Highest Risk of Fatal Accidents

The report focuses on specific danger areas in highway and roadway safety.  These dangers apply not only to car crashes, but also to semi-truck accidents, bus crashes, commercial vehicle accidents, motorcycle crashes, etc.

The concerns apply to all motor vehicle accidents and traffic fatalities.  The report’s six main focus areas are:

1.  Speeding

The report points to data from the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA), finding that in 2015 almost 30% of all fatal crashes in the United States involved a driver who was driving over the speed limit at the time of the accident.  This was higher than the past year (2014).   Report, page 14.

For more on speeding and auto accidents, read:

2.  Occupation Protection: Seat Belts and Helmet Laws

Seat belts are proven lifesavers, according to the experts.  In 2015, NHTSA found that 22,441 occupants of passenger vehicles died and that 48% of these fatalities were not wearing seat belts at the time of the crash.  Studies have confirmed that mandatory seat belt laws that are enforced by the state will save lives.  Report, page 16.

Additionally, helmet laws are viewed by the experts as necessary safety measures.  NHTSA research reveals that motorcycles are the most dangerous type of motor vehicle.   In 2015, their data found that 40% of all motorcyclists killed in the United States were not wearing a helmet at the time of the motorcycle crash.  Report, page 18.

For more on seat belts and helmets, read:


3.  Child Passenger Safety

The main cause of death for children age 5 – 14 years is a fatal motor vehicle accident.  Every day, the report warns, 3 kids are killed and another 500 are seriously injured in motor vehicle crashes.  Report, page 22.

For more on traffic accident dangers facing children, read:

4.  Teen Drivers

Research confirms that young and inexperienced drivers are more likely to be involved in a traffic accident. In fact, teen drivers face a higher risk of dying in a car crash than other driver groups.  The experts believe this is due both to their inexperience as well as the teen driver being less risk adverse.  Motor vehicle accidents are the number one killer of teenagers in this country today.  Report, page 26.

For more on specific dangers facing teen drivers, read:

5.  Impaired Driving

According to the experts, almost 33% of traffic fatalities in this country are caused by drivers who are driving while Impaired.   This includes drunk drivers.   The report warns that an average of one alcohol-impaired driving fatality occurred every 51 minutes in 2015.  Report, page 30.

For more on impaired driving, read:

6.  Distracted Driving

NHTSA research warns that in 2015, 3,477 people died and another 391,000 were seriously injured in crashes involving a distracted driver.  There is an assumption that this data is very much understated because it is known that “… underreporting crashes involving cell phones remain because of gaps in police crash report coding, database limitations, and other challenges.”  Report, page 35.

For more on distracted driving dangers, read:

Indiana and Illinois: How Dangerous Are Our Roadways?

Nationally, we know that 2016 should have even higher numbers of traffic fatalities than in the year 2015.  The preliminary data is already in for the first six months of 2016.

The year 2016 research shows an 8% rise in the number of traffic deaths from the prior year.  And the prior year, 2015, had the biggest percentage increase in traffic deaths in almost half a century. 

The report breaks down all fifty states into three groups:  red, yellow, and green.  Red states are the worst and most dangerous; green are the safest.

Overall, Indiana and Illinois are both in the yellow category. However, in some of the six targeted risk areas, Indiana and Illinois each receive a “red” ranking.  

Billions Lost By Indiana and Illinois to Economic Cost of Motor Vehicle Accidents

Motor vehicle crashes reportedly cost American taxpayers  $836 Billion in “crash tax dollars” each year.  Report, page 8.  This tally includes medical expenses, property damage, and lost quality of life.

Illinois shows an annual economic loss due to motor vehicle crashes in the billions.  The Report’s calculation: $10,885,000,000.00 in tax dollars each year lost to fatal accidents.   Only California, Florida, Georgia, and New York ranked higher. 

Indiana, comparatively, had an annual loss of $6,375,000,000.00 in economic cost attributed to motor vehicle accidents.  Indiana was also in the top ten states in motor vehicle economic costs.


As of how dangerous Indiana and Illinois are for drivers, according to the new Report, please refer to our next post.  We’ll go into the details of how dangerous Indiana and Illinois are for drivers and passengers, children and adults, as well as drivers of different kinds of motor vehicles. 

Let’s be careful out there!

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