California DUI attorneys with new laws and California drunk driving criminal defense lawyers are told California ranks high among states for strong roadway safety laws, but it needs tougher legislation for child passengers, teen motorists and repeat impaired drivers, according to a report released Monday.
If California cranked up requirements with these laws, some of the state's 3,974 roadway deaths in 2007 - at a cost of $20.6billion - could have been prevented, said Judith Lee Stone, president of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety.
"It's incumbent on all of us to do whatever we can to save these lives," said Stone of the Washington-based coalition. "The wait is killing us."
On Monday, the group unveiled its sixth annual Roadmap to State Highway Safety Law report that grades states on the passage of 15 model traffic safety laws related to motorcycle helmets, seat belts, drunken driving and teens behind the wheel. No state has adopted all 15 measures.
Enacting the safety laws will cut an annual 41,000 highway deaths and $230billion in economic costs across the country, Stone said.
California was among 15 states receiving the highest marks in the report for making advances toward adopting all of the group's recommended laws. Alabama, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Tennessee and Washington are included in this category.
Arkansas, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming have a dangerous lack of basic laws for roadway safety, according to the report, and received the worst ranking.
Tightening up child passenger safety legislation, the consumer group wants states to make booster seats mandatory up to age 7.
In California, children must be buckled up in booster seats until they are age 6 or weigh 60 pounds. Legislation to raise the age requirement has failed with lawmakers in the past and was vetoed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2006.
Though it can't take a position on legislation, the state Office of Traffic Safety favors children being in proper safety seats until they are large enough for regular adult seat belts, generally by age 8 or older, said spokesman Chris Cochran.
"We always caution people to keep children in the back seat until age 12 and in proper seats until they are large enough to be adequately restrained by the next highest safety restraint," Cochran said.
Stiffer penalties for repeat impaired driving that match federal requirements also top the consumer group's list of demands.
California lags behind some of these requirements, including a minimum one-year driver's license suspension for repeat offenders.
Federal demands also include vehicle impoundment or installing ignition interlock devices on cars requiring motorists to blow into breathalyzers to show no alcohol is in their systems before the vehicles turn on.
Several ignition interlock bills have failed before in Sacramento, but last week Assemblyman Mike Feuer, D-Los Angeles, introduced new legislation to create a pilot program in four counties requiring interlock devices on any vehicle owned or driven by convicted drunken drivers. Cars won't start unless the driver's blood-alcohol content is below 0.8, the point at which driving becomes illegal.
"This technology makes drunk driving increasingly preventable, and gets offenders in the habit of sober driving," Feuer said.
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