20th Edition Roadmap to Safety Report Details a Comprehensive Plan to Prevent Crashes, Fatalities and Injuries

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With 115 people killed on our nation’s roadways every day, leaders at all levels of government must urgently use available tools and solutions to save lives.

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2023 Roadmap to Safety

In 2021, crashes took 42,915 lives - 10.5% more than 2020. Data from the first half of 2022 show deaths still rising,” said Advocates president Cathy Chase. "This should be a wake-up call to policymakers at all levels of government to act now. Our Roadmap to Safety is a blueprint for such action.

Today, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety (Advocates) was joined by Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) and other safety leaders representing crash victims’ loved ones, state officials, law enforcement, public health and insurance leaders to release the 2023 Roadmap to Safety (Report). This comprehensive tool provides a guide for state legislatures, Congress, and the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to reverse the recent tragic trend of skyrocketing deaths and injuries on U.S. roads.

In 2021, more than 115 people were killed in crashes each day on average. Speeding, impaired driving, and not buckling up are contributing to these devastating figures, but proven, commonsense countermeasures are available to effectuate change. Advocates and our safety partners call on our nation’s state and federal leaders to use this Report and take action – now.

This milestone edition of the Report encompasses a broad scope of policy levers. Having been focused on state laws in the past, this year’s Report additionally provides detailed strategies for incorporating technological solutions and safety infrastructure upgrades. This timely revision coincides with the one-year anniversary of the signing of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA, Pub. L. 117-58) last month. The multi-year surface transportation legislation presented a key opportunity to advance numerous safety improvements including proven vehicle safety technologies like automatic emergency braking and impaired driving prevention systems. The federal legislation also placed a spotlight on initiatives that would enhance the safety of all users as part of a Safe System Approach. However, one year later and with rulemaking deadlines fast approaching, the new report calls on the U.S. DOT to prioritize implementing the safety critical provisions in the law.

Cathy Chase, President, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety: “The 2023 Roadmap to Safety marks the 20th edition of our report. Over that time, more than three-quarters of a million people have been killed and 51.5 million more have been injured in motor vehicle crashes. This year’s report cover features the photos of a mere a fraction of the people killed in crashes. Last year, motor vehicle crashes claimed 42,915 lives. This was a 10.5 percent increase over the previous year. Early data from the first six months of 2022 show deaths persist at egregiously high levels. Moreover, crashes injure millions of people each year and impose a comprehensive cost on society of more than one trillion dollars. This amounts to a crash tax of nearly $950 for every person living in the U.S. This horrific toll must serve as a blaring wake-up call to policymakers at all levels of government to take action to reverse this upward trajectory. Advocates’ Roadmap to Safety provides a blueprint for such action.”

Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Chair, U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Highways and Transit: “In 2019 and again in 2022, the Subcommittee on Highways and Transit, which I chair, held hearings on roadway safety to discuss what actions Congress should take to save lives, what countermeasures and strategies are working, and where we are falling short. We heard clearly what is not working – for too long, we have accepted preventable traffic deaths as inevitable, prioritized speed over safety, and focused solely on moving cars quickly. Traffic fatalities have increased 19 percent since before the pandemic. Deaths among people walking and biking have increased by 62 percent in the last decade. And crashes continue to be a leading cause of death for our children and teens. Last November, Congress passed the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the largest long-term investment in national infrastructure in nearly a century, and it will help us build a safer, cleaner, and more equitable transportation system. With robust implementation by the U.S. Department of Transportation, States, and cities, I expect the law will deliver real gains in roadway safety for the District of Columbia and every other community in this country.”

Rana Abbas Taylor, Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD): “The report’s timing couldn’t be better because it helps shine a light on the work USDOT should be doing to fulfill the highway and vehicle safety provisions in the infrastructure bill. As someone whose life was forever changed by a drunk driver, I cannot overstate how important it is that USDOT and NHTSA prioritize road safety and complete the impaired driving technology rulemaking on time. It’s urgently important.”

Matt Gannon, Head of Federal Affairs, Farmers Insurance, Advocates’ Incoming Insurance Co-Chair: “Proven technologies like automatic emergency braking, or ‘AEB,’ can help mitigate distracted driving as well as other dangers like drunk or drugged driving and drowsy driving. They need to be required as standard equipment in all new vehicles as well as be responsive to all road users, including pedestrians and bicyclists, in all lighting conditions and at all speeds. Today, we urge the U.S. Department of Transportation to begin and complete the rule required by Congress to get AEB and other safety advances in cars with urgency. We cannot afford to delay acting on the solutions presented in this report.”

Chief Jeffrey Glover, Tempe (AZ) Police Department: “Roadway safety impacts everyone every day. At the very worst case, it has needlessly killed or permanently injured people and has forever changed the lives of loved ones. As a law enforcement officer, I have had to deliver the tragic news that a son, daughter, wife, husband or parent has been killed. I remember each time. It is gut wrenching just to get the words out. It is an experience that stays with you, especially knowing that these losses are entirely preventable. That is why I am motivated by the work that Advocates and others are doing to improve safety and spare families from having to endure this type of loss, anguish and grief. Advocates’ Roadmap to Safety report outlines a commonsense approach for preventing crashes and saving lives. The 16 countermeasures are basic protections that can make the difference between life and death, or between suffering a serious, lifelong injury or walking away from a crash. As the cover of this year’s report says – ‘we have the tools.’ We can make certain that families remain whole and that no one receives that horrible, life-altering knock on the door that no law enforcement officer ever wants to make.”

Mary Jagim, MS, RN, CEN, FAEN, Past President of the Emergency Nurses Association, Consumer Co-Chair: “Emergency nurses are on the front lines of treating crash victims and survivors. We also advocate on behalf of preventative measures with the ultimate goal of keeping people from needing to go to emergency rooms. This includes championing the research and experience-driven countermeasures included in Advocates’ Roadmap to Safety. Public safety and public health go hand-in-hand, and the solutions detailed in this report are critical to improving both. While the road to eliminating crashes is long, the Roadmap to Safety acts as a compass to navigating it with purpose. By following this guide, we can prevent crashes and fatalities and reduce the serious and often lifelong debilitating injuries that emergency nurses tragically see every day.”

Christine Nizer, Administrator, Maryland Department of Transportation Motor Vehicle Administration: “This report is an important tool for states to help identify the leading traffic safety issues and proven countermeasures and I am especially proud that Maryland received the top distinction of a “green” rating. With 563 fatalities on our roads last year, Maryland is focused on improving safety for all road users and we will continue to work collaboratively with our partners until we reach zero fatalities.”

Report Findings:
Advocates’ Roadmap to Safety gives every state and Washington, DC a rating in six categories (Occupant Protection, Child Passenger Safety, Teen Driving, Impaired Driving, Distracted Driving and – new this year – Automated Enforcement to Curb Speed) as well as an overall grade of “green,” “yellow,” and “red,” reflecting each state’s progress, or lack thereof, toward achieving the optimal laws. The 20th edition of the Report includes updates such as changes in the specific laws rated and debuts a new overall, simplified scoring system.

Five states (LA, MD, OR, RI, WA) and DC received the highest rating, “green,” while nine states earned a “red” rating for lagging dangerously behind in the adoption of Advocates’ recommended laws (FL, MA, MI, MO, MT, NE, ND, SD, WY). The remaining 36 states receive a “yellow” or caution rating, indicating that improvement is needed.

Opportunities for state legislative improvement in 2023:
No state has enacted all 16 of Advocates’ optimal countermeasures. Based on Advocates’ safety recommendations, states across the nation need to adopt 494 laws.

  • 16 states need an optimal primary enforcement seat belt law for front seat passengers.
  • 30 states need an optimal primary enforcement seat belt law for rear seat passengers.
  • 32 states need an optimal all-rider motorcycle helmet law.
  • 32 states need a rear facing through age 2 or older law.
  • 33 states and DC need an optimal booster seat law.
  • 48 states and DC need an optimal rear seat through age 12 law.
  • 192 GDL laws need to be adopted to ensure the safety of novice drivers, no state meets all the criteria recommended in this report.
  • 27 critical impaired driving laws are needed in 26 states.
  • 4 states need an optimal all-driver text messaging restriction.
  • 19 states need a GDL cell phone restriction.
  • 27 states need to permit automated enforcement by law.
  • 32 states do not have automated enforcement in use.

A comprehensive approach to safety that prioritizes safe vehicles, safe road users, and safe roadway infrastructure – as has been the foundation of Advocates’ mission since our founding in 1989 – is the clear path to eliminating the preventable physical, emotional and economic toll crashes impose.

Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety is an alliance of consumer, medical, public health, law enforcement and safety groups and insurance companies and agents working together to make America’s roads safer. Advocates’ mission is the adoption of federal and state laws, policies and programs that prevent motor vehicle crashes, save lives, reduce injuries, and contain costs.

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Allison Kennedy

Bill Bronrott
Bronrott Communications
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