Group Praises Nevada Safety Laws

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Nevada received a thumbs-up for its traffic safety laws, but a national study released Thursday said the state could also toughen seat belt requirements and restrictions on teenage drivers.

The study, conducted by the Washington, D.C.-based Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, found the Silver State's law books carry 13 of 16 traffic safety laws the group deemed essential.

Nevada was one of five states tied for second place behind California. The others were North Carolina, Washington, Maine and Georgia.

"It's exciting for me to see Nevada, for once, on the right side of the national scale," said Erin Breen, director of the Safe Community Partnership at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

The study put laws into four categories. It said Nevada rated well when it came to existing laws and child passenger safety.

Teen driving rated fair, with half the essential laws in place.

The study also said the state rated fair regarding adult occupancy protection, including motorists using seat belts and motorcyclists using helmets.

Laws in place or scheduled to take effect this year in Nevada include a 0.08 percent blood-alcohol limit for drivers; open alcohol and checkpoint laws; booster seat and child restraint laws; and motorcycle helmet requirements.

The study said the state should have a seat belt law letting police pull over and ticket drivers exclusively for that offense; and should restrict new teenage drivers from driving at night and without an adult for the first six months.

Breen said a primary seat belt law would save the most lives. About 20 percent of car and truck occupants fail to wear seat belts in Nevada, but they represented about 60 percent of occupants killed in traffic crashes in 2002, according to officials and federal statistics.

Nevada Office of Traffic Safety highway safety coordinator Chuck Abbott said he would like to see a more laws on the essential list, including legalizing the use of cameras to catch red-light runners.

"I know it's controversial, but it does seem to be effective," he said.

The state's existing laws have done little to cut down on the number of traffic deaths in recent years.

Unofficially, 362 people died in car accidents last year, down slightly from the 381 killed in 2002. But officials attribute that to the state's explosive population growth, noting accident rates remain relatively stable.