A new report places Florida near the bottom of all 50 states and the District of Columbia when it comes to driving safety laws. Advocates for Highway & Auto Safety, a national group of consumer, medical, public health, law enforcement, and safety groups and insurance companies and agents working together to improve road safety in the U.S., recently published its 2022 Roadmap of State Highway Driving Laws. The report was created to address “increased risky driving behavior such as speeding, impairment, and lack of seat belt use” among American drivers, based on data from the Department of Transportation (DOT) over the past two years.
Alarmingly, the report found that in “the first six months of 2021, motor vehicle crash deaths jumped nearly 20 percent – the largest increase of this type ever recorded in the history of the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS).”
The report compares the safety laws of each state and the District of Columbia. It rates them on a color scale of Green, Yellow, and Red. A Green rating means the state has adopted at least 11 of the group’s recommended laws. States with Green ratings include New York, California, Louisiana and the District of Columbia.
Florida’s Red (dangerous) rating is based on the fact that Florida only has 6 of the 16 driving safety laws recommended by Advocates for Highway & Auto Safety. The safety laws that Florida does have include mandatory seatbelts for drivers and front-seat passengers, texting and open container restrictions, and a child endangerment law.
However, Florida is missing 10 critical safety driving laws, including:
- Mandatory seatbelts for backseat passengers,;
- Motorcycle helmet requirement,
- Booster seat law;
- Rear-facing seat through age 2 requirement;
- Ignition lock for DUI offenders
- Greater restrictions for new drivers/teens with their learners permit, including:
- Stronger nighttime and passenger restrictions;
- Raising the minimum age for a learner’s permit from 15 to 16; and
- Increasing the minimum age for a driver’s license from 16 to 18.
Advocates for Highway & Auto Safety found that Florida’s lack of adequate driving safety laws causes many more auto crashes and costs the state nearly $13 million per year. The majority of those costs are for property damage. Many of these costs wind up being paid for by Florida residents. The group estimates that every individual living in Florida pays a “crash tax” of $877 per year. Employers also pay a huge cost due to lost productivity and other financial burdens when their employees are out of work due to auto and motorcycle crashes.
Based on the DOT data, Advocates for Highway & Auto Safety’s report urges lawmakers in all states, particularly those at the Red level like Florida, to strengthen the language and enforcement of driving laws. Jovita Wysocka Ahava is an attorney focused primarily on auto accidents, motor vehicle law, personal injury, premises cases, defective consumer products, prescription drugs and medical devices, and nursing home abuse and negligence. Ms. Ahava is a partner at Ahava Law Group and is licensed to practice law in Florida, Massachusetts and New York. She is also a Polish-speaking attorney.