Despite experiencing a modest reduction over the past few years in traffic fatalities across the state and country, the truth is that our state still has work to do to keep motorists safer. With this in mind and in keeping with AAA's mission of safer roads, we will be turning our attention to three important issues in 2011 that, if enacted, will save lives on our roads.

Text messaging ban

While driving distracted by any means is dangerous, texting has shown by far to be the most dangerous distraction of all. Several studies have demonstrated just how dangerous this behavior is; in fact, a study conducted by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute observed that drivers that engage in text messaging are 23 times more likely to be involved in an automobile crash or narrowly avoid one.

Last session, AAA supported a text messaging ban that passed out of the Senate for the first time in the state. Unfortunately, the bill did not receive a hearing in the House of Representatives and Arizona remained among the minority of states without a ban on this dangerous driving practice.

In 2011, we will continue to lobby in support of a statewide ban against text messaging by drivers. The good news is that the public joins in support of this effort, as recent polling has shown that 86 percent of residents support such a ban.

Roadside Assistance Safety Act

Under current law, motorists are required to "move over" to another lane, when safe to do so, in order to provide first responders (police, fire, medical response) with adequate space to do their jobs safely.

However, this law fails to protect all motorists who are stranded on the side of the road, as well as other roadside assistance personnel who are doing their job every day roadside. This bill passed unanimously out of the Senate in 2010, but also failed to receive a hearing in the House.

In 2011, we will continue to support the Roadside Assistance Safety Act, legislation aimed at expanding this protection to these roadside assistance personnel and the motorists who have the unfortunate coincidence of becoming stranded on the side of the road, waiting for help to arrive.

Booster seat legislation

Finally, we need to fix one of the weakest child passenger laws in the country. Existing Arizona law requires children under the age of 5 to be placed in a child restraint system when riding in a vehicle.

However, this law has a major loophole, as it fails to protect child passengers who are over age 5 but still too young to be adequately protected in an adult seat belt. Since the use of booster seats is known to dramatically reduce the risk of child injuries, we will continue to lobby in support of legislation that would fix our flawed law and keep our most precious cargo safe while riding in a motor vehicle. Arizona is one of just three states without a booster seat law, and it's time we join the rest of the country in protecting our young passengers.

We are looking forward to the opportunity to continue to work hard on behalf of the motoring public in order to improve safety and protect motorists' rights during the 2011 legislative session. We also seek your support. Please contact your legislator and urge them to vote "yes" on these bills.

Linda Gorman is public affairs director for AAA Arizona. Reach her at (602) 650-2716.

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