Even when grading on a curve, Pennsylvania came out with a mediocre grade in a recent review of its traffic safety laws. The review found that our state has passed several important laws designed to reduce the risk of serious injuries from car accidents but that there is a lot of room for improvement.
The Advocates for Auto and Highway Safety (AAHS) graded each state based on how many out of 16 recommended laws it has on the books. AAHS’ proposed statutes go into five categories: teen drivers, drunk driving, distracted driving, child car seats, and motorcycle and bicycle helmets. As you can see, some of the categories have to do with banning or regulating inexperienced or dangerous drivers, and others are about enforcing personal safety precautions.
AAHS gave Pennsylvania a passing grade on seven of its 16 laws, good enough for a “Caution” grade. That does not sound great, but keep in mind that no state got a perfect score. Rhode Island came the closest with approval for 13 of its 16 laws.
Here are the traffic safety laws that AAHS said were sufficient:
- Making 16 the minimum age for learner’s permits
- Requiring teens to carry a permit for at least six months before applying for a junior driver’s license
- Requiring at least 65 hours of supervised driving before applying for a junior license
- Stronger penalties for DUI when a child was in the vehicle
- Banning texting and driving
- Banning open containers of alcohol in vehicles
- Requiring rear-facing car seats for all children through age 2
Now, the bad news:
- Allowing cellphone use by teen drivers, including hands-free use
- Not making not wearing a seat belt a primary offense, meaning police cannot pull over a vehicle over lack of seat belt use
- No helmet requirement for motorcycle riders over age 21
- No height requirement in the child seat law
- An 11 pm curfew for teen drivers instead of a 10 pm one
- Letting teen drivers have up to three non-family passengers instead of just one
- Allowing teens to get their full driver’s license at 17 in some cases
- No requirement that a driver install an ignition interlock after their first DUI conviction
Laws that require drivers to act carefully and respectfully of others on the road are helpful. But when a dangerous driver has injured you, preventative laws do not matter much. What is important to you in that situation is your right to seek compensation for your damages.