Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Pa. should look to New Jersey's example on safety

A new study of Americans' risk of dying by accident highlights two areas where the lives of more Pennsylvania motorists could be saved if Harrisburg lawmakers enacted tougher highway-safety rules.

Pa. should look to New Jersey's example on safety

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A new study of Americans’ risk of dying by accident highlights two areas where the lives of more Pennsylvania motorists could be saved if Harrisburg lawmakers enacted tougher highway-safety rules.

In comparing state safety records, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation teamed with the nonpartisan Trust for America’s Health to look at 10 factors, such as whether states enacted zero-tolerance laws for first-time drunk drivers.

Boasting the nation’s lowest rate of injury-related deaths, New Jersey scored seven out of 10 on the study’s “The Facts Hurt” checklist. But in Pennsylvania, where the injury death rate was above the national rate, only five boxes were checked.

While those factors don’t fully explain the varying safety records, it’s clear that Keystone State motorists would be safer if Harrisburg followed Trenton’s example by strengthening enforcement of seat-belt use and restoring the mandate that all motorcyclists wear helmets.

Should Pa. reinstate the requirement that helmets be worn by all motorcyle riders?
Yes, since state’s head-injury rates jumped after helmet rules weakened
No, bodily injuries lead to more fatalities than headers, cycle groups say
Yes, injury experts say universal helmet law ‘single most effective’ life-saver
No, in keeping with core freedoms, let bikers decide on helmet

Legislators and Gov. Corbett last year took a positive step in making it a primary offense if young drivers don’t belt up. But all unbelted drivers should be subject to those tougher rules, as is the case in Jersey.

The 2003 repeal of the motorcycle helmet requirement stands as an even more glaring misstep that should be reversed. According to a 2008 University of Pittsburgh study, motorcycle head-injury deaths jumped by 66 percent, while 78 percent more cyclists were hospitalized for head injuries, in the two years following liberalization of the helmet law.

A compelling case for helmet use has been made in testimony from emergency-medicine doctors who witness the needless carnage from head injuries that, at times, also drive up health costs in the state.

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