Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, an alliance of consumer, health, safety and insurance groups, on Jan. 31 ranked Pennsylvania as one of the seven worst states when it comes to the adoption of safe driving laws. The group gave Pennsylvania an "F" in teen driving laws and an overall "Danger" rating when it comes to basic laws. The group rated every state surrounding Pennsylvania with a green light for legislation that promotes safe driving.
The group's annual report was announced at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. Among the speakers was Marlene Case, of Lower Pottsgrove, who became a highway safety activist after her 17-year-old son, Andrew, was killed in a crash involving a teen driver in November 2009.
"It's too late for Andrew, but it's not too late for others," said Case, as she spoke through tears to the gathering. "These laws don't cost states any money and only require political leadership."
The leadership lacking to enact safe driving laws in Pennsylvania has a profound effect.
In another study released the same day, Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and State Farm Insurance reported that in 2008 more than half a million people, 681,000, were involved in crashes in which a teen driver was behind the wheel.
The study said that nearly one-third of the recently people killed as a result of car wrecks involving teen drivers aren't even in the teenagers' cars. Cyclists, pedestrians and occupants of other vehicles comprise 30 percent of the people killed in crashes involving teen drivers.
Officials said the research shows that most of the tragedies are caused by inexperience and are therefore preventable.
Strong graduated driver licensing laws, which allow teenagers to gain experience under lower-risk conditions, are proven to be an effective prevention measure, researchers maintained. Also proven effective in states where they have been adopted are passenger limits in cars driven by teens.
As Case pointed out, this is not difficult: It just requires leadership.
Safe driving standards and more restrictive teen driving laws have been adopted in neighboring states of New Jersey, New York, Delaware and Maryland.
Pennsylvania has gotten failing grades on many fronts recently, and new Gov. Tom Corbett says he intends to change some of that.
This fix is simple. It doesn't cost anything except leadership to enact safe driving laws.