Study: Arkansas Ranks High in Road Safety Improvements

November 30, 2010

A national study indicates Arkansas ranks second nationally in advancing its road safety laws during the past two years.

The national scorecard produced by the Emergency Nurses Association noted Arkansas has passed laws requiring a tougher graduated driver’s license for teenagers, making not wearing a seat belt a primary offense, banning texting while driving and mandating an ignition-interlock device for some drunken drivers.

Arkansas received three of a possible 14 points on the 2008 scorecard but that number jumped to eight of 14 this year. Only Minnesota increased its score by a larger margin.

“We made big strides,” David Holman, an emergency room nurse at Arkansas Children’s Hospital in Little Rock, told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. “They were all in one fell swoop.”

Mothers Against Drunk Driving spokeswoman Teresa Belew said: “It was a landmark year for driving safety.”

The association uses the scorecard to highlight laws it believes are effective in preventing death and injury on highways. In Arkansas, 585 people died in highway crashes in 2009, and nationally about 37,000 people die in highway accidents each year, according to the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration.

Holman said the poor scores Arkansas received on the 2008 scorecard helped lead to legislative support for the new road safety laws enacted in 2009. Gary Stephenson, a State Farm Insurance executive in Arkansas, said the fact that Arkansas’ teen fatality rate in traffic crashes was double the national rate also spurred interest in enacting tougher laws.

Heather Williamson, associate director of the Injury Prevention Center at Children’s Hospital, said the new laws will affect the state’s traffic crash statistics.

“While it is too soon to have any Arkansas data on lives saved due to the laws, we know that other states have seen reductions in motor vehicle fatalities after the implementation of such policies,” Williamson said.

The scorecard rates states on legislation that addresses issues such as seat belt use, child passenger safety, graduated driver licensing for teenagers, all-rider motorcycle helmet requirements and cell phone usage by drivers. Oregon and Washington received the best possible score, 14 points, on both the 2008 and 2010 scorecards.

Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

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