Report: Indiana Car Accident Prevention Requires Tougher Laws

When it comes to nationwide roadway safety, Indiana did not fare as well as we would have hoped, according to a recently-released annual report highlighting legislative deficiencies.Our Highland personal injury attorneys aren’t surprised by the findings, though we hope it serves as an eye-opener and a starting point for lawmakers to advocate for change.

The “2013 Roadmap of State Highway Safety Laws,” conducted by Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, reveals that 750 of the more than 8,300 traffic fatalities occurring in the last decade happened in 2011. These crashes have an annual economic impact of $4.35 billion to the state of Indiana, including costs of property damage, injury, hospitalization, lost work, law enforcement and emergency resources and disability. (Nationwide, that figure was $300 billion in 2011 – up from $230 billion in 2000.)

While we may never be successful in the complete eradication of inexperienced and irresponsible drivers, there is certainly more we could do. The state has been given an overall “yellow light” rating – a mid-range rank falling between optimal traffic safety measures (green) and abysmal (red).

Specifically, the report outlines the following areas where Indiana can improve:

  • Enact an all-rider motorcycle helmet law;
  • Enact graduated driver’s license programs that require drivers to be at least 16 years-old for a learner’s permit and strengthen nighttime driving restrictions for those drivers;
  • Enact a law requiring ignition interlock devices for everyone convicted of DUI – not just repeat offenders;
  • Enact a law that additionally penalizes impaired drivers who have minors in the vehicle with a charge of child endangerment.

There really is no excuse not to move on these actions, particularly considering that Congress passed a multi-billion dollar transportation initiative offering states monetary incentives to do so.

With regard to motorcycle helmet laws, only 19 states and the District of Columbia have them. Indiana is one of those lacking. The study indicates that the lives of nearly 40 motorcycle riders could have been saved last year if we had implemented an all-rider helmet law.

Indiana did earn a “green light” rating for its passage of optimal child booster seat laws, which is important given that traffic crashes are the No. 1 cause of death for children over the age of 5. Booster seats are believed to reduce the injury risk for kids aged 4 through 7 by about 60 percent.

We were also given a “green light” rating for our GDL laws, but it’s noted that we only have five of the recommended seven GDL laws in place. Between 2006 and 2011, some 900 people were killed in crashes involving drivers who were between the ages of 15 and 20. Passage of enhanced GDL laws, which allow novice drivers to gain experience gradually and safely, could serve to reduce that number even more.

For example, states with nighttime driving restrictions for under-18 drivers report teen fatality reductions as high as 60 percent during those hours.

With regard to impaired driving, Indiana gets only a “yellow light” rating. Of the 1,140 children under age 14 killed in traffic accidents in 2011, more than 15 percent were alcohol-related crashes. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that somewhere between 50 million and 100 million drunk driving trips are made each year with children under the age of 15 in the vehicle – illustrating why the implementation of a child endangerment law to enhance criminal penalties for such violations is so critical.

Of course, we have laws to protect our children from abuse, neglect or negligence. And while driving drunk with a child in the car is clearly negligence, it’s not clearly stated as such under state law. Indiana is behind the curve on this, as one of only eight states lacking such a law.

Indiana Family Law Attorney Burton A. Padove handles personal injury and wrongful death matters throughout Northern Indiana, including Gary, Hammond and Calumet City. Call Toll Free 877-446-5294.

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