New Jersey Falls Short in Auto Safety
Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety is a coalition of consumer groups and insurance companies that produces an annual report tracking safety laws across the United States. Concerned about the roughly 100 deaths and more than 6,500 injuries that occur daily in vehicle crashes on American roads, the group has identified 16 laws that, if implemented, could save lives. Their report, “Annual Roadmap of State Highway Safety Laws,” details where each state stands regarding safety legislation – and New Jersey falls short.
New Jersey Highway Fatalities on the Rise
Highway fatalities in New Jersey saw their lowest point in 2013 when 542 deaths were recorded. Since that time, the number of highway fatalities has steadily risen, with 607 people dying in car accidents in 2016.
Although New Jersey has enacted 12 of the 16 laws recommended by Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, one of the laws missing is crucial to the survival of passengers involved in a car accident. Because of a law passed in 2009, an officer cannot ticket unbuckled back-seat passengers, unless the vehicle has been stopped for another violation such as speeding.
This means too many back-seat passengers – often children and teenagers – ride without seatbelts and suffer the consequences in an accident. Half of all fatalities involve drivers and passengers who were not wearing seatbelts at the time of a crash. According to Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, more people wear seat belts when it is required by law.
Top performing states in the report have at least 13 of the 16 recommended safety measures in place. New Jersey has only 12. The report had additional recommendations for New Jersey, including an ignition interlock law for anyone with a drunk driving conviction, and more restrictions for drivers under age 18 that have just started driving.
With highway fatalities for 2017 numbering at least 629, New Jersey needs to do everything possible to help reduce the upward trend of accidents, injuries, and deaths. Economically, motor vehicle accidents cost the state $12.8 billion annually. Only California, New York, and Texas have higher costs.
Distracted driving is thought to be a factor in the increase in accident statistics. Cellphone use is of particular concern. The National Transportation Safety Board also cites driver fatigue, known as drowsy driving, as a major factor in some crashes, and wants to focus more on the issue.
While 13 states adopted optimal safety laws in 2017, the report indicates that there are no states that have enacted all 16. New Jersey could do more to address occupant protection and child safety, by giving police the ability to ensure that back-seat passengers stay buckled up.
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