Florida is one of the most dangerous states for driving, a recent report shows
A recently published report from the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety shows Florida has some of fewest roadway safety laws in the country.
On a scale of 1 to 10, Florida scored a 2 for optimal roadway safety laws. Only Montana and Wyoming scored lower.
Tara Gill is the senior director of advocacy and state legislation for the organization. She says Florida lags in child passenger safety, teen driving and automated speed enforcement laws, among other issues, and that it’s been tough to get traction on new driving policies in the state.
"Every year, we come back to Florida and we have to defend the state's red light camera law,” Gill said. “So, it would be really helpful if we could just focus on improving traffic safety laws, rather than having to defend good laws that are already on the books."
Of the states with the lowest overall scores, Florida has by far the largest population, with 10 million more people than Michigan, which has the second largest population considered in the danger zone for road safety.
Gill said there are 13 road safety laws that other states have passed. Going forward, she says, Florida needs a focus. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration lists seat belt use, speeding and impairment as top reasons for traffic fatalities, so the organization would like to see the state prioritize laws surrounding those concerns.
"I'd say to Florida, improve your rear seat belt law, enact an all-offender ignition interlock device law and start using automated speed enforcement,” Gill said.
More specific examples of laws other states have implemented include a rear seat belt requirement, tighter child booster seat guidelines, more restrictions for teen drivers and upgrades to motorcycle helmet laws for people older than 21.
Florida should also focus on preventing impaired driving, Gill said.
“We would urge the state to enact an all-offender ignition interlock device law, and a cellphone restriction for those novice drivers as well,” Gill said. “That's a complete cellphone ban.”
Gill said apart from creating new policy, using federal infrastructure dollars to improve the condition of Florida roadways will also prevent crashes.
In 2021, Florida reported over 3,700 traffic fatalities and almost $14 billion dollars spent on crashes, according to the study.
“When you break down all these numbers, the (annual) economic cost for each person living in the U.S. – that's what we call a crash tax on every living person – it's about $950,” Gill said.
In total, the research shows that motor vehicle crashes cost the United States and its citizen’s over $300 billion dollars, including lost workplace productivity, property damage, and medical costs.
“The takeaway is that we need action,” Gill said. “We know what the solutions are; we detailed them in the report, and we're not the first people to come up with these solutions.”
Only five states in the U.S. are in the "good" category for optimal road safety laws, while 36 states have received a "caution" rating, meaning they’ve implemented at least some of the laws suggested by the organization.
Florida joins Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming as the nine states with a "danger" rating, meaning they all fall behind when it comes to recommended road safety laws.
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