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Ohio Traffic Safety Laws Need Improvement: Part I

While traffic safety laws are not a foolproof way to reduce car accidents and crash fatalities, they are definitely a step in the right direction. And certain laws have proven to be particularly effective in reducing road fatalities and injuries. A non-partisan, non-profit group known as Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety has identified a group of 16 such laws, and releases an annual report ranking states based on how many of these laws they have enacted.

Unfortunately, Ohio is near the bottom of this list. It was among the 11 states to receive a “red” rating, meaning they are “dangerously behind” in adopting the recommended laws. Ohio has implemented just five of the 16 laws.

In this post and our next post, we’ll look at the five categories of safety laws and how Ohio’s laws stack up in each category. The categories include: Occupant protection, child passenger safety, teen driving (and graduated driver licensing programs), impaired driving and distracted driving. Nearly all of these categories are regular topics of discussion on this blog because they are responsible for contributing to personal injury lawsuits.

Occupant Protection (Seat Belts and Helmets)

The three criteria in this category include:

  • Primary enforcement front seat belt law
  • Primary enforcement rear seat belt law
  • All-rider motorcycle helmet law

“Primary enforcement” means that a police officer can pull someone over after observing them not wearing a seatbelt. In Ohio, our seatbelt laws are secondary enforcement, meaning that someone can only be cited if they were already pulled over for a different, primary offense.

Ohio requires front-seat occupants to be wearing seatbelts, but not back-seat occupants.

Our motorcycle helmet laws are also not universal. Helmets are only required for riders/passengers who are younger than 18 or who have been licensed less than a year.

Child Passenger Safety

The two criteria in this category include:

  • Requiring rear-facing infant seats until age 2
  • Requiring booster seats after children outgrow infant seats

Both of these recommended laws are backed by vigorous safety research showing that they are very effective at reducing the rate of death and severity of injuries if children are involved in a car accident.

Ohio requires use of these devices, but neither is considered a primary offense, which means that it is more difficult to cite drivers who fail to properly secure their young children.

Check back later this week as we continue this discussion.