Arizona Highway and Safety Laws

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The Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety has released its 2014 Roadmap of State Highways and Safety Laws and Arizona was ranked among the worst states. Linda Gorman of AAA Arizona will talk about what progress Arizona has made in passing new highway safety laws and the need for more legislation.

Ted Simons: A group of highway safety advocates has released the road map of state highway and safety laws, and Arizona was ranked among the worst for occupant protection and distracted driving. Joining us so Linda Gorman of AAA Arizona. Good to see you. Who did this study and what were they looking at?

Linda Gorman: It's a consumer group. The advocate for auto highway, or highway and auto safety, so they look at this every year, and they rank the states based on red, yellow, or green, and 11 states, including Arizona, ranked red. And it really has to do with traffic safety laws, so, there are a lot of opportunities for, for improvement, however, we have made a lot of great strides in the past few years, too, so we don't want to discount the strides that we have made.

Ted Simons: We don't want to discount it but I looked at the report, and the map, and there is Arizona bright red down there in the corner, and we're surrounded by a bunch of states that aren't bright red. What are they doing that we're not doing?

Ted Simons: Well, the report included a lot of different recommendations for improvement, but, what they really focused on, the bigger issues are primary seat belt laws, so what we have in Arizona is a secondary seat belt law, what that means is that, is that you cannot be pulled over or cited for not wearing a seat belt. Whereas if you have driven through California you know that as soon as you cross the line you can be pulled over for not wearing a seat belt alone, and so we know that seat belts save lives, and primary laws in Arizona alone could have saved 66 lives last year.

Ted Simons: It sounds like, according to the report, teenage driving, big factor there, as well, we don't seem to be doing as well as others. Why?

Linda Gorman: Teenage driving is another big issue that, that graduated driver's licensing is something that AAA lobbied for, for, since the early 90's, and we did make some, some modest improvements in 2007, but we need to do more. So, a couple, three areas that we can look at in terms of the strengthening of the law, one would be night-time restrictions, second passenger limitations, and the third is wireless use. So, those are the three areas. If you look at night-time restriction, and it makes sense because teens do best when they learn how to drive in steps. And they do it during daylight hours, and we have a midnight to 5 a.m. restriction, if we bump that an hour we could save more lives.

Ted Simons: And one more area of concern is distracted driving. We're not doing too well. Explain.

Linda Gorman: We don't have a statewide ban recognizing that but what this report looked at, is that we need to remove distractions from novice drivers, and these drivers, the foundation for traffic safety has shown that these drivers have cell phones, and they are three to five times more likely to be involved in a crash if they use the wireless phone, texting or even talking on the phone, so we recommend a ban that would prohibit the drivers for the permitted period, and the first six months of unsupervised driving from using the phone at all.

Ted Simons: It's interesting. We need to get to the positives. Child passenger safety. Impaired driving. Arizona did pretty well.

Linda Gorman: Yes, and I am so glad you brought that up. It's not all bad. We have made great progress in terms of the strengthening the child passenger safety law, and added booster seat protection, and a very, very stiff ignition interlock policy to prevent drunk driving, so, there is, there are some private spots, so we should not overlook those. However, we should not ignore needed improvements.

Ted Simons: So what do you think that we need to take from this report?

Linda Gorman: Well, there are very modest changes that we can make immediately that would save lives. So, I mentioned the wireless ban for new teen drivers, and there is a bill being introduced this session, and house bill sponsored by representative sand, that would do just that, ban wireless devices for, for the permit period and the first six months where a teen has his unsupervised driver's license. That would allow teens to, to learn how to drive in an environment free from, free from distractions.

Ted Simons: And other -- it looks like maybe an all rider motorcycle helmet law.

Linda Gorman: That was included in the report, which makes sense. Arizona has seen a spike in not only motorcycle registrations but also motorcycle deaths since 2010. It's common sense knowing if you wear a motorcycle, you are less likely to become seriously injured or die.

Ted Simons: Last question, working with the legislature, seeing what, what they are interested in and not, are these -- do these ideas have traction down there?

Linda Gorman: Well, I do think, if you look -- you cannot say that, that -- I don't think it's fair the legislators don't have interest in safety because I think that, that they do, and as you pointed out, so I think that there is some interest, but, things like the, the GDL bill, banning wireless usage, I think, is something palatable and has good support.

Ted Simons: All right. Linda, good to see you and thanks for joining us.

Linda Gorman: Thank you.

Linda Gorman:AAA Arizona;

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