Wyoming is the worst state in the nation in terms of enacting highway safety laws, according to a group that advocates such laws.
Wyoming had only four of 15 critical safety laws that the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety deems necessary.
The group released a report Monday that cites motor vehicle crashes as the top killer for people aged 4 to 34 in the United States.
“As long as this No. 1 killer of young people has been a national public health epidemic, one would think that proven solutions would be firmly in place to stem the annual mortality tide,” said Judith Lee Stone, the group’s president. “But they are not, and public and government outrage seems muted, given the scale of the loss to our society.”
The group advocates for safety laws that cover the areas of adult occupant protection, child passenger safety, teen driving and impaired driving.
It says Wyoming needs to enact primary seat-belt, motorcycle helmet, open container, repeat offender, sobriety checkpoint and child endangerment laws. It also says the state needs to restrict cell phone usage in vehicles and require mandatory blood alcohol content testing in fatal accidents.
Col. Sam Powell, director for Wyoming Highway Patrol, said the report may have failed to take into account Wyoming’s low population density and how that impacts the need for certain laws.
That said, there were two areas that the state continues to struggle with — alcohol use and the state’s low rate of seat-belt use, he said.
In 2005, there were 55 crashes in Wyoming that involved alcohol usage, resulting in 63 deaths. In that same year, 95 fatalities were blamed, at least in part, on the victim not wearing a seat belt.
“For those families and individuals affected by highway fatalities last year, this is a very real issue,” Powell said.
The state does have a law requiring the use of seat belts. But for the law to be enforced, there must be another moving violation or need to pull a vehicle over.
Sen. Tony Ross, R-Cheyenne, said he is introducing bills that would toughen the state’s laws on open-containers and drunken drivers.
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