Safety laws report calls for more truck regulations

January 11, 2021

Tyson Fisher


Nearly 400 additional safety laws need to be adopted across the nation to ensure optimal roadway safety, according to Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety’s 18th annual Roadmap of State Highway Safety Laws. More trucking regulations are also suggested in the report.

On Monday, Jan. 11, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety released its annual report detailing how states are doing with road safety laws. The report also suggests what the federal government can do to improve traffic safety.

Federal regulations

Specific to the trucking industry, the Roadmap of State Highway Safety Laws suggests that automatic emergency braking systems and speed limiters can reduce fatal crashes. The safety group also recommends underride guards, adequate entry-level driver training and screening for obstructive sleep apnea.

Where OOIDA disagrees

Whereas the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association agrees that improved driver training will increase safety, the Association takes issue with the safety group’s other recommendations.

“Various academics, research groups, and government entities continue to debate the reason for the increase in crashes involving large trucks,” said Andrew King, a research analyst for the OOIDA Foundation.

“However, it appears that they have set much of their focus on technology as the potential panacea for greater safety on the roadways instead of recognizing that the majority of crashes involving a large truck and a light-vehicle are caused by the driver of the passenger vehicle.  While some safety technologies hold promise these groups continue to ignore the limitations and dangers of ADAS.  No technology can replace a well-trained driver.  OOIDA members continue to emphasize a call for better-trained drivers as the solution for obtaining better safety on the roadways.”

Other recommendations for safety laws/regulations at the federal level include:

  • Automatic emergency braking systems, lane departure warning and blind-spot detection required in all new vehicles.
  • Automated enforcement, e.g., red light cameras.
  • More safety standards for autonomous vehicles.
  • Impaired driving detection technologies.
  • Pedestrian/bicyclist.
  • Rear seat safety.

“Advanced driver assistance systems, known as ‘ADAS,’ such as automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, and blind spot detection, are proven to prevent and mitigate crashes but are not required as standard equipment on all new vehicles,” Cathy Chase, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety’s president, said in a statement. “The Biden-Harris administration and the 117th Congress should prioritize swift action to set minimum safety standards for ADAS and advanced impaired driving prevention technology in new vehicles to address the major killers on our roads.”

State safety laws

According to the report, five laws were passed last year that meet criteria set by Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety. However, one law was repealed.

New York enacted a rear seat belt law, moving the state from a yellow rating to green on a red/yellow/green rating system. South Dakota passed an all-driver texting ban and several laws addressing teen driver licensing. On the other hand, Missouri got rid of its all-rider motorcycle helmet law.

The safety group’s report suggests that nearly 400 state safety laws need to be enacted, including:

  • 16 states need an optimal primary enforcement seat belt law for front-seat passengers.
  • 30 states need an optimal primary enforcement seat belt law for rear-seat passengers.
  • 32 states need an optimal all-rider motorcycle helmet law.
  • 35 states need a rear-facing through age 2 child passenger safety law.
  • 34 states and the District of Columbia need an optimal booster seat law.
  • 190 teen driver licensing laws need to be adopted to ensure the safety of novice drivers (no state meets all recommended criteria).
  • 29 critical impaired driving laws are needed in 27 states.
  • Four states need an optimal all-driver text messaging restriction.
  • 19 states need a teen driver licensing cellphone restriction.

Only eight states and Washington, D.C., have an overall safety law green rating: California, Delaware, Louisiana, Maine, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island and Washington.

Twelve states have a red rating: Arizona, Florida, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, Ohio, South Dakota, Vermont, Virginia and Wyoming.

The safety law reports estimate the annual economic cost of vehicle crashes to be $242 billion. That comes to what Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety refer to as a “crash tax” of $784 per person each year. When accounting for loss of life, pain and decreased quality of life, the economic cost increases to $836 billion annually. LL