Fleet Watch

Are poor driving safety laws responsible for surge in traffic deaths?

A new study shows a lack of driving safety laws could help explain the surging number of people killed in accidents.

The report ranks driving safety laws nationwide. It found Rhode Island, Delaware, Washington state, Washington D.C., Louisiana and Oregon as the best states for driving — with Rhode Island at the top of that list. South Dakota, Wyoming, Arizona, Missouri and Montana are accused of having the worst record.

In Virginia – one of the states the group says needs to do more to make the roads safe – seat belt use is required, but you can’t be pulled over for not buckling up. According to the new report, the measure would save lives. This report comes out as regulators are trying to understand why traffic deaths are surging nationwide, reports CBS News correspondent Kris Van Cleave.

James Shaffer’s wife, Emma, and their 12-year-old daughter were driving in Denton, Texas last April when they were struck head on by a 24-year-old mother who had her young daughter in the car. Police believe she was texting. All four died in the crash.

“Our lives have been drastically changed and shattered,” James Shaffer said.

Shaffer said he will never forget telling his young son the news. Earlier this month, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimated nearly 28,000 people died in crashes during the first nine months of 2016. That number is up about eight percent from 2015, which saw the biggest rise in deaths in 50 years. Since the April crash, Shaffer helped convince the city of Denton to pass a hands-free law and is working on a similar statewide measure.

“It’s astonishing how many people, especially young people, we’re losing due to something as simple as distracted driving,” Shaffer said. Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety argue there’s also an economic cost that comes with the crashes. According to the report, motor vehicle accidents cost about $242 billion a year. That so-called “crash tax” boils down to nearly $800 dollars per person in the U.S.

Source: CBSnews.com