As a leader in driver safety, AAA recognizes the recent strides our legislators have made in making Arizona roads safer. Fewer children will be killed in motor crashes, thanks to our stronger child passenger law. In addition, stranded motorists, roadside assistance crews, and road maintenance now receive the added protection of our Move Over law. And in 2007, we made modest improvements to our state’s graduated driver license (GDL) law, providing a safer learning environment for young drivers by minimizing passenger distractions and nighttime driving risks.
Notwithstanding these recent improvements, more work remains to be done. While we know that seat belts save lives, we are missing a proven opportunity to maximize this life-saving benefit by not enacting a primary seat belt law. Under current law, drivers may not be cited for not wearing a seat belt alone; they must first commit another unrelated violation. A primary law allows a seat belt violation to occur alone. Yet, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data demonstrates that states that enact primary seat belt laws see traffic fatality rates drop an average of 20 percent. That’s an additional 66 lives saved in Arizona in 2012 alone.
As a result of a stronger GDL law, we have seen a 16 percent drop in teen driver and passenger fatalities. While that is certainly good news, we recognize we need to do more to minimize distractions for teen drivers. Recently, research from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety showed that 82 percent of 16- and 17-year-old drivers have cell phones, and they readily admit to using them behind the wheel. What’s more, a recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine showed that teens are more distracted than adults by cell phones and are three to five times more likely to crash.
Considering that car crashes are the leading cause of death for teens, it’s clear that inexperience, combined with distractions, poses a deadly combination. To that end, AAA is focused on strengthening our state’s GDL bill to keep novice drivers safe during the critical learning-to-drive-phases. That’s why we applaud Rep. Fann for sponsoring HB 2359, which calls for a complete wireless device ban for teen drivers in the permit phase and for the first six months of unsupervised driving.
As an advocate for the safety and security of the motoring public, AAA will continue to monitor any proposed legislation that will save lives on our roads. For more information and to follow this legislation, visit az.aaa.com/news/legislative.
• Linda Gorman is the communications and public affairs director for AAA Arizona. Reach her at (602) 650-2716 or firstname.lastname@example.org.