BUFFALO, N.Y. – Traffic safety has slowly but steadily been improving in the last few decades. Seatbelts are required by law in nearly every state, technology advancements have vastly improved vehicle safety, and drunk-driving laws are stricter than ever. Still, as many as 20,000 Americans are killed each year in car crashes because states failed to adopt new safety laws.
A new study by public health researchers at NYU found some important predictors of whether states adopt new driving laws. Two of the strongest indicators were states with large populations of young adults and a neighboring state with stringent traffic laws.
Buffalo car accident attorneys at Cellino & Barnes said when it comes to drunk-driving, New York was one of the states leading the charge.
“New York was the first state to adopt drunk-driving laws in 1910, keeping some offenders off the road in cities like Rochester and Buffalo,” car accident attorney Ross Cellino said. “Those early laws weren’t very harsh but it laid the foundation for more changes that would come in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s.”
Today, there’s a 0.08 limit on blood alcohol content and “zero tolerance” policies for drivers under the age of 21, both of which were prompted by federal incentives. Beyond that, states have different laws, different penalties and different ways of enforcing those laws.
“Look at speed limits,” Cellino said. “Drivers can travel up to 75 miles per hour in Colorado but in New York State, the maximum speed limit is 65 and much less in urban areas.”
States neighboring New York have some of the lowest speed limits in the country. Cities like Buffalo have seen a steady decrease in the number of drunk-driving accidents since the 1990’s. Researchers believe this is attributed to the harsh penalties offenders can get, if caught.
Researchers at NYU believe their work can help organizations stimulate policy changes in New York and across the country to further improve road safety.