As Arizona celebrates its Centennial, AAA Arizona also pauses to reflect on our 85-year legacy of advocating for safer roads. And while we have enjoyed recent successes, unfortunately, more work remains to be done.
Thankfully, recent advancements in safety legislation have resulted in fewer families experiencing the tragic loss of a loved one due to a traffic crash. In 2007, we successfully lobbied to strengthen the state's graduated driver's license law for novice drivers. As a result, lives have been saved. In 2007, teen drivers were involved in 15 percent of all fatal crashes in Arizona, compared to 8 percent in 2010, according to Arizona's Strategic Highway Safety Plan Report Card. While it's true that traffic deaths have declined across every age category, this enhanced law has likely had a positive impact on this sharp decline.
In addition, recognizing the inherent danger for roadside assistance workers and stranded motorists, in 2011, we worked to strengthen the law to require traffic to slow down or shift lanes when approaching stranded vehicles on the side of the road.
In remaining true to our mission of saving lives on our roadways, AAA Arizona is working to continue this momentum during the 2012 legislative session.
In an effort to expand the effectiveness of the Teen Driver Safety Act of 2007, AAA supports SB 1056, sponsored by Sen. John McComish, R-Ahwatukee. This legislation strengthens the existing graduated driver's license law by including a ban on the use of mobile communication devices during the instruction permit period and the first six months after these novice drivers receive their license.
Recently, SB 1056 passed out of the Senate by a vote of 23-6. We applaud McComish and other legislators who supported this bill and we remain encouraged as it moves over to the House for consideration.
As text messaging remains the mother of all distractions, AAA Arizona will continue to advocate for the enactment of a statewide prohibition on texting while driving. We are not alone in this effort, as 35 states have enacted similar bans and recent public opinion polls have demonstrated nearly 90 percent support a ban.
Finally, we have once again teamed up with the medical community and child safety advocates to update our antiquated child passenger law. Arizona is one of only three states that do not require children to be placed in a booster seat until an adult seat belt fits them properly, despite overwhelming research that shows improper use of adult seat belts on small children can cause catastrophic injuries.
Yet, under Arizona law, when a child reaches the age of 5, the only requirement is that children be placed in an adult seat belt, regardless of whether that restraint will properly protect that child in a crash.
That's why AAA supports HB 2154, sponsored by Rep. Nancy McLain, R-Bullhead City, which would require the use of booster seats until the child reaches the safe height of 4 feet, 9 inches or at least 8 years old, whichever comes first.
Improving the safety of our roadways remains a core government function. We all have a reasonable expectation that traffic laws represent the most updated research available and that one person's reckless road actions aren't allowed to jeopardize the life of another person.
• Mike Tully is president and chief executive officer of AAA Arizona.