Drivers in Virginia have a much higher risk of death, injury and economic losses because of loopholes in traffic safety laws, according to a report released today by Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety.
The coalition has given Virginia the lowest of three rankings in its 2012 report, which grades all 50 states and the District of Columbia on their performance in adopting 15 basic highway safety laws. The District and Maryland both ranked among the highest when it comes to traffic and auto safety laws.
The report says Virginia needs to toughen its traffic laws to close loopholes, such as not stopping and ticketing drivers for failing to use seat belts or for cellphone use while driving.
Jacking Gillan, president of Advocates for Auto Safety, says it would make more sense to have Virginia, Maryland, and the District to have the same traffic laws.
"Considering how mobile this society is and how much driving goes on between Virginia, Maryland and D.C., it just doesn't make any sense to have different rules for the road," she says.
For example, not wearing your seatbelt is a primary offense in Maryland and D.C., but only a secondary offense in Virginia, meaning police can't pull someone over just for failing to wear the seat belt. The same goes for open containers.
"In Virginia, you can drive around with an open bottle of alcohol in your passenger compartment," says Gillan.
The group calls for open containers to be banned, and for breathalyzer tests to be mandatory for drivers suspected of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Gillan also says Virginia lawmakers also need to address a series of laws affecting teen driving, among them raising the learners permit age to 16.
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