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Traveler's Advocate

Safer Roads In 2011

Safety belts and motorcycle helmets top AAA's list of legislative priorities

By Kevin Bakewell


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Two of our driving principles at AAA are protecting and advancing the freedom of mobility, and improving traffic safety. With the 2011 Tennessee legislative session set to convene on Jan. 11, AAA will continue to press for laws that protect everyone on our roads.

Safety Belt Violations Fines

A growing body of research suggests that higher fines are associated with higher safety belt use. In many states, though—including Tennessee—the fine is notably small, making buckling up seem less urgent.

The current fine for violating the safety belt law in Tennessee is only $10, with no court fees attached and no violation "points" added to a driver's state record. AAA will urge lawmakers to make the life-saving safety belt law even more effective by increasing its fine and allowing court costs and violation points to be attached. Regardless of the financial consequences, AAA firmly believes safety belts save lives, and we will continue working to reinforce this important fact.

Motorcycle Helmet Use

Tennessee is among 20 states and the District of Columbia that have motorcycle helmet laws requiring all riders to wear a helmet. Recently, though, attempts have been made to repeal the state's helmet law or exempt persons 21 years or older from the requirement. AAA will continue to support current legislation requiring motorcycle drivers and passengers to wear helmets.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that helmets saved the lives of 1,829 motorcyclists in 2008. If all had worn helmets, an additional 823 lives could have been saved.

Motorcycle riders who do not wear helmets also have higher health care costs resulting from their crash injuries. The NHTSA reported in 2002 that, in motorcycle crashes, "only slightly more than half of motorcycle crash victims have private health insurance coverage. For patients without private insurance, a majority of medical costs are paid by the government."

In addition to these key issues, AAA will monitor bills this year related to transportation, toll roads and other traffic safety issues. We'd like for you to work as partners with AAA to change our traffic safety culture. Together, we can save lives.


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