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Improved Laws Would Mean Fewer Car Accidents in Carolinas

A national study analyzing the effectiveness of road safety laws in each state has found both North and South Carolina lacking in many areas.As our South Carolina car accident lawyers understand, however, South Carolina fared worse than its northern counterpart.

Although North Carolina has more fatal traffic accidents on average (1,227 in 2011 compared to South Carolina’s 828) and even though the annual economic cost is higher for North Carolina ($8.27 billion versus South Carolina’s $3.34 billion), researchers with Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety determined that has mostly to do with the population differences.

When it comes to the ideal set of laws in place to protect motorists, North Carolina was given a high-level “green light” rating, while South Carolina received a mid-level “yellow light” rating.

To understand why, first we have to offer some key background information. Last year, Congress passed the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (often referred to as MAP-21). This law provides billions of federal dollars to be allocated to roadway safety programs across the country over the course of the next two years. States that enact certain provisions geared toward teen safe driving, reduction of DUIs, child safety seat enhancements and motorcycle rider safety would receive federal dollars.

Still, many states have yet to act on some of these critical measures.

In North Carolina, the critical provisions the researchers found lacking were with regard to DUI and the graduated licensing program (GDL). It’s recommended that ignition interlock devices be required for all DUI offenders, not just those who have been convicted more than once. And with regard to teens, it’s recommended that GDL programs require teens be at least 16 years-old before being able to obtain a learner’s permit. They should be at least 18 before being granted an unrestricted license.

In South Carolina, the list is lengthier, and deals with not only DUI and GDL, but also motorcycle safety, child safety and distracted driving. Specifically, researchers recommend:

  • All-rider motorcycle helmet law;
  • Requirement of a booster seat for children through age 7;
  • Minimum age of 16 for learner’s permit;
  • Stronger passenger restrictions for young drivers with permits;
  • Stronger cell phone restrictions for young drivers with permits;
  • Minimum age of 18 for unrestricted licenses;
  • All-driver text messaging restriction;
  • Ignition interlock laws for all offenders.

With regard to some of these initiatives, we understand the general push back from legislators is the belief that it may infringe on personal rights.

For example, motorcycle helmet requirements could be seen a personal choice, with the risk assumed by the rider. However, when we consider the cost of emergency services, hospitalization, workers’ compensation, disability, lost wages – the cost is ultimately born by society.

Another example is the issue of mandated ignition interlock devices, which require convicted DUI offenders to pass a breath-based blood alcohol measurement before the vehicle will start. In both South and North Carolina, the devices are required only for multiple offenders. Some have taken the view that first-time offenders don’t deserve the same level of scrutiny as those who are arrested repeatedly. They made a one-time mistake, and should be afforded some slack, especially if no one was hurt. However, you must consider that the average first-time DUI offender has already made some 80 trips intoxicated before he is arrested. Credit for lack of serious or fatal injury does not belong with the drunk driver.

And we as a society can’t rely on luck. Not with DUIs. Not with child safety. And not with motorcycle rider safety or our teen drivers.

If you or a loved one is involved in an accident, contact Grimes Teich Anderson LLP. Call 1.800.533.6845. No Attorney Fees Until You’ve Been Paid.*

*Exclusive of case costs. Fee is a percentage of recovery.

Additional Resources:
The 2013 Roadmap of State Highway Safety Laws, 10th Annual Edition, January 2013, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety
More Blog Entries:
Carolina Traffic Crashes and Older Drivers: Report Examines Aging Population’s Driving Risks, Jan. 11, 2013, North Carolina Personal Injury Lawyer Blog

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