Minnesota, Arkansas, Louisiana and Wisconsin Making Greatest Gains in Laws to Promote Roadway Safety

Nov. 17, 2010
A report released by the Emergency Nurses Association (ENA) indicates that many states are making progress toward making roads safer, with Minnesota, Arkansas, Louisiana and Wisconsin leading the way. Only two states in the nation, Oregon and Washington, met all the ENA criteria for roadway traffic safety laws and a third state, Tennessee, met all but one criterion.

Arizona, Idaho, Iowa, North Dakota and South Dakota received the lowest scores, meeting fewer than half of the criteria. North Dakota’s score of four is the lowest of any state. The report, 2010 ENA National Scorecard on State Roadway Laws: A Blueprint for Injury Prevention examines roadway safety laws in all 50 states and the District of Columbia and scores each based on 14 criteria. For the first time the report includes a distracted driving law among the criteria.

“According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, every 12 minutes, someone dies in a car crash on U.S. roads and every ten seconds, someone is injured, taken to and treated in an emergency department for injuries sustained in a motor vehicle crash,” said ENA President Diane Gurney, RN, MS, CEN. “We know that many of those injuries and deaths are preventable through roadways laws and enforcement and we need policy makers to join us in supporting and passing laws that can save lives. Across the country, emergency nurses, who treat the victims of motor vehicle crashes every day, are urging their policy makers to pass and enact more and better roadway safety laws.”

The 2010 ENA National Scorecard ranks states based on 14 types of legislation that address: seat belt use; child passenger safety; graduated driver licensing for teens; all-rider motorcycle helmet requirements; ignition interlock devices to prevent drunk driving; entering, sending, reading or retrieving data for all drivers using cell phones or other interactive wireless communication devices; and the authority to develop, maintain and evaluate a state trauma system. States received one point for each type of legislation. With 14 points each, Oregon and Washington were the only states to receive the best possible score for the second time in a row.

Thirty-eight states and the District of Columbia either enacted laws since the 2008 report that improve their scores or already had in their statutes additional laws consistent with ENA criteria. Twelve states – Alabama, Arizona, Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and Virginia – showed no progress from 2008 to 2010 in meeting ENA criteria.

North Dakota is the only state that failed to make any progress since the first report was released in 2006. The next lowest scoring states are Idaho and Iowa, which each scored five points and have shown no progress since the 2008 ENA Scorecard was published. The state that made the greatest progress was Minnesota, which increased its score from five in 2008 to 11, followed by Arkansas, which increased its score from three to eight.

For the first time, the 2010 ENA National Scorecard includes a distracted driving law among the criteria. Twenty-six states and DC have passed or enacted laws that have a primary enforcement law that applies to entering, sending, reading or otherwise retrieving data, except in the case of an emergency, for all drivers using interactive wireless communication devices. According to the National Highway Safety and Transportation Administration, 5,474 people died in distraction-related motor vehicle crashes in 2009, of which cell phones as a distraction amounted to 18 percent of fatalities in the distraction-related crashes. Of all distractions while driving, texting has caused the most recent concern among state legislatures.

“Timely and appropriate care can be the crucial difference in whether a crash victim survives or dies,” said Gurney. “While most of us can choose where to seek primary care, victims of motor vehicle crashes are transported to the closest health facility, which may or may not be able to treat their injuries. We would like to see every state establish a trauma system that ensures that anyone injured in a crash is taken to a trauma center that can provide the type of care and the level of care they need.”

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