Arizona’s lenient child safety laws and lack of teen driver restrictions make it the worst of the 50 states when it comes to preventing trafficrelated injuries, according to a study to be released today.
The study by the Emergency Nurses Association scored each state or district from 1 to 10 based on the strength of laws covering seat belt use, motorcycle helmets, child safety and teenage drivers.
Washington state and Washington, D.C., ranked the highest in the nation with perfect scores. Arizona received a 2 out of 10, which was the lowest score given. Arkansas, Minnesota and South Dakota fared slightly better, each earning a score of 3.
Michael Hegarty, deputy director of the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety, said he isn’t surprised by the outcome because Arizona lacks strong highway safety legislation.
However, Hegarty said his office does support tougher seat belt, booster seat and teen driver laws and has been working to build support for them in the Legislature.
“This year, with the creation and leadership of the Governor’s Traffic Safety Advisory Council and its collection of nearly 20 safety-related organizations from around the state working together, we will continue ... supporting these efforts to make Arizona motorists safer on our roadways,” he said. Emergency Nurses Association president-elect Donna Mason said the study’s purpose is to alert states to the need for tougher safety laws.
Chandler Fire Department Battalion Chief Dan Couch agreed that Arizona is lacking in some areas.
“On the issue of child safety seats, we do lag behind a lot of the nation,” Couch said.
Arizona law states that children must be placed in approved safety restraint devices until age 5. However, many other states require such devices for children up to 8 years old.
Couch, who is an expert in child safety seats, said children shorter than 4 feet 9 inches should not use a standard seat belt. “The bottom line is when you put a young child in a seat belt, it doesn’t fit properly,” he said. “The sudden amount of force in an accident risks snapping femurs, rupturing organs, and if the seat belt rides up on the neck, it can actually cause internal decapitation.”
- Tribune writer Katie McDevitt contributed to this report.