Many reasons cause car collisions and their subsequent fatalities, including distracted and negligent driving and driving under the influence, but what about the decisions of state lawmakers?

Could they do more to ensure safer driving conditions in their respective states?

According to the Advocates for Highway & Auto Safety (AHAS), the answer is yes after finding over 400 state laws around the country that could lead to a reduction of car crashes and related fatalities in each state if implemented.

The United States Department of Transportation (US DOT) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported that in 2016, car collisions led to the death of over 37,000 people, an increase of 5.6% from 2015. Reported car crashes totaled over 6 million, leading to nearly 2.5 million personal injuries.

What can be done to increase safety?

First off, all states could enact primary seat belt laws. Primary law allows police officers to give a driver a ticket for the sole purpose of not wearing their seat belt. Currently, 34 states, including Florida, enforce primary seat belt use laws. The following 15 states only have law citing secondary enforcement:

  • Arizona
  • Colorado
  • Idaho
  • Massachusetts
  • Missouri
  • Montana
  • Nebraska
  • Nevada
  • North Dakota
  • Ohio
  • Pennsylvania
  • South Dakota
  • Vermont
  • Virginia
  • Wyoming

Secondary enforcement only allows police to issue a citation if the driver was pulled over for a different violation. New Hampshire is the only state without seat belt use legislation.

As for who must be buckled up? All 50 states plus the District of Columbia have laws that state all adults in the front seat are required to wear a seat belt to receive coverage in the event of a collision. The definition of an “adult” varies by state. In Florida, a primary enforcement state, the “adult” label refers to anyone six years old or older in the front seat and ages six to 17 in the back and all seats.

Lastly, many states need to improve their traffic safety laws. According to the report by AHAS, only six of the 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia have made significant progress in traffic safety legislation. 13 states, including Florida, are far behind recommended safety laws. Some solutions suggested in the report include collision avoidance technology, red light and speed cameras at intersections, more thorough safety regulations for large trucks and safer accommodations for young children and teenagers sitting in the back seats.