OUR OPINION: Graduated licenses can save lives in N.D.
North Dakota's reluctance to heed traffic safety research is starting to take a toll. Residents and lawmakers should recognize this and merge into the "safety lane" before any more lives are lost. "North Dakota traffic laws are the nation's least...
North Dakota's reluctance to heed traffic safety research is starting to take a toll.
Residents and lawmakers should recognize this and merge into the "safety lane" before any more lives are lost.
"North Dakota traffic laws are the nation's least safe, while Minnesota's saw big improvements in the past two years and nearly rank in the top one-quarter," The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead reported Thursday.
The Emergency Nurses Association analyzed the data and rated the states. The association checked how many of 14 benchmark laws had been passed by each state. These benchmarks include rules on child passenger safety, seat belt use and graduated driver licensing for young people, among other regulations.
The verdict in North Dakota: Only four of the 14 benchmark policies now are law, fewer than in any other state.
This isn't an academic exercise. "Gene LeDoucer, a spokesman for AAA in North Dakota, said he's not sure why there's such a disparity between the neighboring states in their approach to traffic-safety laws," The Forum reported.
"However, the differences play out in the number of traffic deaths, with Minnesota on a downward trend and North Dakota's increasing, he said."
Some of the clearest evidence concerns the effectiveness of graduated driver licensing for young people.
In October, the Los Angeles Times reported on a new study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.
The report offered "good news for the nation," the Times reported:
"Fatalities among teenage drivers have fallen steadily and markedly since the mid-1990s. From 2004-08 alone, they dropped by more than a third."
As important, "this isn't just a happy coincidence. The CDC report notes that new air-bag regulations and other safety requirements for passenger vehicles helped keep teens safer during crashes. ...
"But the CDC analysis attributes most of the drop to graduated-license laws, under which new teenage drivers are subject to restrictions on their driving privileges during the first year or two. ... The more rigorous the rules, the more lives saved. Teen drivers are more likely to be involved in car accidents when their colleagues go along for the ride -- and the more teen passengers, the higher the chance of a crash."
Questions remain and studies conflict about the effectiveness of texting-while-driving laws. But where graduated driver licensing is concerned, the evidence is in -- and it's strong: These GDL laws cut down dramatically on the number of teen fatalities on the road.
North Dakota should learn this lesson and pass a strong set of GDL laws of its own.
-- Tom Dennis for the Herald