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Distracted Driving And Teen Driver Safety: AAA’s Big Push In 2012


Texting while driving, by Flickr user ericathompson

Texting while driving, by Flickr user ericathompson

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With all the attention distracted driving has been getting in recent months, it should come as no surprise that the AAA is prioritizing its legislative efforts this year to focus on that issue and a related one involving teen driver safety.

In fact, the AAA says their legislative agenda for 2012 includes advocating laws in every state banning texting while driving, full wireless bans for new teen drivers, and stiffer penalties and fines for drivers committing violations or crash while driving distracted.

AAA’s stand on texting while driving

In 2009, the AAA launched a national campaign to urge all states to ban texting while driving.  In 2011, five states enacted such bans, thus raising the total number of states with texting bans to 35.

The AAA effort continues this year, and the organization fully expects that the remaining 15 states will at least consider laws prohibiting texting while driving sometime during 2012.

AAA’s stand on teen driver safety

Easing teens into driving via graduated driver licensing (GDL) has been proven to save teen lives and reduce crashes. Yet the AAA finds that nearly every state still has opportunities to improve these laws. Just six states currently have GDL systems that meet the AAA’s guidelines for nighttime and passenger limits and practice requirements: Delaware, Indiana, Michigan, New York, Oklahoma and West Virginia.

States can improve their existing GDL systems by raising the age and increasing the requirements for teens getting their driver’s license, banning novice drivers from use of wireless communication devices, and adding to or improving limits on number of passengers and driving at night for newly-licensed teens.

Other AAA safety priorities for 2012

While distracted driving and teen driver safety are at the top of the AAA’s priority list for 2012, the organization also will focus on improving the following laws:

  • Booster seat laws – Three states (Arizona, Florida and South Dakota) have no booster seat requirements, despite research that shows booster seats reduce deaths and injuries for children. Nineteen states still have booster seat laws that don’t meet safety experts’ guidelines to include children under eight.
  • Primary seat belt laws – Eighteen states still don’t have a primary seat belt law. In addition, the AAA will seek to increase fines in states with weak penalties and expand seat belt requirements to include back seat passengers in the remaining states.
  • Move over laws – Only Hawaii and the District of Columbia do not currently have a move over law, which requires drivers to move over, when it is safe to do so, when an emergency vehicle is approaching.  Forty-five states improved their move over laws last year to include the requirement for drivers to move over for tow trucks. The AAA will continue to promote move over laws in remaining states.

But it’s more than laws that can help with both distracted driving and improve teen driver safety. In an earlier FamilyCarGuide story, we looked at how Ford’s MyKey system now allows parents to block all incoming texts and calls while their teens are driving. There are also tips on how to manage distracted driving that can help.

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