By Joel Feldman
The approaching summer season can be joyous for teenagers, but it's also potentially deadly, with the rate of teen deaths in car crashes expected to double.
This month marked the launch of an ambitious international plan to save lives and reduce injuries from automobile accidents. The Decade of Action Road Safety 2011-2020 is a collaborative effort of more than 50 countries spearheaded by the United Nations, with the goal of saving five million lives and preventing 50 million injuries. Decade of Action events have been coordinated around the world, including in Washington, where physicians, traffic-safety experts, engineers, insurers, legislators, and families affected by highway tragedies gathered to dedicate themselves to saving lives.
This event, and this movement, are personal to me. My wife and I were asked to participate because our daughter, Casey, was killed in a senseless highway accident in Ocean City in July 2009. Since that time, we have found some comfort in raising awareness of the dangers of distracted driving. But with awareness comes an unsettling realization that, here in Pennsylvania, our legislators could be doing much more to protect us.
Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety has rated the state's record on traffic-safety legislation as one of the country's seven worst. Seat-belt usage is essentially optional - it's not a primary offense for which a motorist can be stopped - and there are no laws against texting or handheld cellphone use while driving. Our lawmakers have also failed to enact commonsense legislation restricting the number of nonrelative passengers who can accompany a teen driver at any time.
A number of bills to address these glaring oversights have recently been approved by the state House. Some are stronger than others, but all would help raise our embarrassing ranking and, more important, ease the devastating loss of life.
My wife and I work to save lives so that other children can finish high school and college, find satisfying careers, marry, have children, and live full, productive lives. Isn't it time for our legislators to give more of our children that lasting graduation present?