Arizonans beep your horns – we’ve been selected as one of the worst states in the nation when it comes to driving safely.

Photo (but not crash) by Ryn Gargulinski

Photo (but not crash) by Ryn Gargulinski

Perhaps we should have some bumper stickers made up.

Arizona ranked as the second worst state based on the annual report card from Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, according to its news release.

Ironically, the low-ranking report card came hot on the wheels of an Arizona Department of Public Safety news release that announced highway deaths decreased nearly 50 percent from 2006 to 2009.

Maybe people have been just too broke to buy gasoline.

The Highway and Auto Safety report card ranks states into cute little categories that match traffic lights. Green is at the top of the heap, yellow is the mediocre states and red is the worst.

Arizona was only topped by South Dakota and had the fine distinction of being a new entry in the red category.

The Grand Canyon State was bashed for having only 4.5 laws of the group’s 15 recommended laws that promote safe driving.

The group said the state is missing a primary seat belt law; six out of seven teen driving provisions; mandatory blood-alcohol testing for drivers who survive a crash in which there was a fatality; and the booster seat law.

Why do we need a booster seat law when we can just chuck the kids in the back of the pickup?

Arizona also lacks a motorcycle helmet law and restrictions on texting while driving.

Last we heard there isn’t even a cell phone law, why should we jump the gun and institute a texting one?

This year’s report graded states on their adoption of 15 model laws divided into five issue categories, the release said:

Adult Occupant Protection (2 laws)
* Primary enforcement seat belt law that allows law enforcement officers to stop and ticket someone for violating the seat belt law rather than a weaker secondary enforcement law that requires the officer to observe another traffic violation first.
* All-rider motorcycle helmet law that requires motorcyclists of all ages to wear a helmet.

Child Passenger Safety (1 law)
* Child booster seat law that requires children from age 4 through age 7 to be placed in a booster seat.

Teen driving Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) law that phases in the full driving privilege in a three stage process and allows for primary enforcement of the law: (7 laws)
* A minimum age of 16 to obtain a learner’s permit.
* Learner’s Stage: A six-month “holding period” that requires beginning teen drivers to be supervised by an adult licensed driver at all times and to be citation-free before graduating to the provisional or intermediate stage
* Learner’s Stage: A minimum 30-50 hours of adult supervised driving with no reduction in required behind-the-wheel practice time for teens who take a driver’s education course.
* Intermediate Stage: A nighttime driving restriction provision that prohibits unsupervised driving from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m.
* Intermediate Stage: A passenger restriction of no more than one non-family teen passenger without adult supervision
* Learner’s and Intermediate Stages: A cell phone and texting restriction that prohibits the use of cellular devices (handheld and hands-free) by novice teen drivers, except in the case of an emergency.
* The minimum age for an unrestricted license is 18.

Impaired Driving (4 laws)
* Ignition-interlock devices (IID) required for all drunk-driving offenders.
* Child endangerment law for driving drunk with children in the motor vehicle.
* Mandatory blood-alcohol testing for any driver who is killed, or who survives a crash in which there is a fatality, to have his or her BAC tested.
* Open container ban in the passenger area of vehicles. The state law must match the requirements put forth in the federal TEA-21 law, which includes possession and consumption and allowing for primary enforcement.

Distracted Driving (1 law)
* A ban on text messaging for all drivers, except in the case of an emergency.
In each of the five issue categories, states were given one of three ratings based on how many optimal laws they have: Green (Good); Yellow (Caution – state needs improvement); and Red (Danger – state falls dangerously behind). Placement in one of the three ratings was based solely on whether or not a state had adopted a law as defined in the report, and not on any evaluation of a state’s highway safety education-enforcement program or on fatality rates.

While all this is quite interesting, rating a state by how many laws it has in place may not be the best way to go about ranking them.

Even if laws are in place that does not mean people will actually follow them.

New York made the green category as one of the top five states for traffic safety.

The ranking people have evidently never driven through Brooklyn where the car in front of you will suddenly stop, double parked in the middle of the street, while the driver runs into the deli to get a bialy.

And they are certainly missing out on driving an Arizona highway in a dust storm or trekking through Tucson where anyone who doesn’t tailgate ends up getting cut off and blinkers are foreign objects.

If they tried basing the ratings on those aspects, Arizona may even beat out South Dakota.


wb-logolilWhat do you think?

Would Arizona be a safer if all the recommended traffic laws were in place?

What traffic law are we missing that we need?

What traffic laws are annoying or stupid?

What driving laws do you constantly ignore?