Indiana auto crashes cost 900 lives, $8B annually, report says

Traffic crashes cost Indiana 930 lives in 2021 and more than $8 billion annually, according to a national report from Washington, D.C.-based Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety.

To reduce crashes and fatalities, the group says Indiana should adopt a list of new laws, ranging from a motorcycle helmet mandate to a requirement that learners complete more drive time before qualifying for a license.

“This horrific toll must serve as a blaring wake up call to policymakers at all levels of government to take action to reverse this upward trajectory,” said Advocates President Catherine Chase, speaking on the high number of crashes nationally, at a news conference this month.

In its 20th annual report, Chase’s organization identified 16 traffic safety laws it believes all 50 states should pass, and graded each on its progress. Several speakers said they hoped upcoming legislative sessions would bring more advances.

“As many of us in the states are preparing for the 2023 legislative session, it’s great timing for the roadmap to come out now,” said Christine Nizer, Maryland’s Motor Vehicle Administration chief. “It should serve really as a helpful guide to all of our policymakers of steps that can be taken to reduce crashes, prevent injuries and save lives on our roadways.”

Advocates gave Indiana, along with 35 other states, a “caution” rating for adopting less than eight of those laws. Just five states and D.C. earned a “good” score while nine earned a “danger” rating.

The report noted Indiana’s strong front and rear seat belt requirements, ban on open containers of alcohol, ban on texting while driving, and some safety requirements for those learning to drive.

But it also suggested Indiana adopt more laws requiring that:

  • All motorcycle riders, regardless of age, wear helmets. In Indiana, only persons under the age of 18 or with a motorcycle learners permit are required to wear a helmet and eye protection.
  • Infants and toddlers use rear-facing car seats, and in the back seat, until at least age two.
  • Children who’ve outgrown forward-facing car seats use booster seats until they’re tall enough to use a seatbelt safely without it — usually at 4-foot-9 or age eight.
  • Children sit in the back seat until age 12.
  • Beginner drivers be at least 16 years old to get a learner’s permit and 17 to get a license. Indiana’s law allows learner’s permits at 15 and a full license at 16 years and three months with completion of a driver’s education program or 16 years and nine months without.
  • Beginner drivers complete at least 70 hours of drive time with a licensed driver. Indiana’s law is 50 hours.
  • Beginner drivers not be allowed to driver unsupervised starting at 8 p.m. Indiana’s law says new drivers can’t operate a vehicle from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. the first six months, but there are exceptions.
  • Ignition interlock devices be installed on the cars of all people convicted of drunk driving offenses.

And the group encouraged Indiana to allow automated speed enforcement under the law, and get that technology put to use.

This article was first published in The Indiana Lawyer.

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