Arizona one of worst states in nation for driving, highway safety folks say

Arizonans beep your horns – we’ve been selected as one of the worst states in the nation when it comes to driving safely.

Photo (but not crash) by Ryn Gargulinski

Photo (but not crash) by Ryn Gargulinski

Perhaps we should have some bumper stickers made up.

Arizona ranked as the second worst state based on the annual report card from Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, according to its news release.

Ironically, the low-ranking report card came hot on the wheels of an Arizona Department of Public Safety news release that announced highway deaths decreased nearly 50 percent from 2006 to 2009.

Maybe people have been just too broke to buy gasoline.

The Highway and Auto Safety report card ranks states into cute little categories that match traffic lights. Green is at the top of the heap, yellow is the mediocre states and red is the worst.

Arizona was only topped by South Dakota and had the fine distinction of being a new entry in the red category.

The Grand Canyon State was bashed for having only 4.5 laws of the group’s 15 recommended laws that promote safe driving.

The group said the state is missing a primary seat belt law; six out of seven teen driving provisions; mandatory blood-alcohol testing for drivers who survive a crash in which there was a fatality; and the booster seat law.

Why do we need a booster seat law when we can just chuck the kids in the back of the pickup?

Arizona also lacks a motorcycle helmet law and restrictions on texting while driving.

Last we heard there isn’t even a cell phone law, why should we jump the gun and institute a texting one?

This year’s report graded states on their adoption of 15 model laws divided into five issue categories, the release said:

Adult Occupant Protection (2 laws)
* Primary enforcement seat belt law that allows law enforcement officers to stop and ticket someone for violating the seat belt law rather than a weaker secondary enforcement law that requires the officer to observe another traffic violation first.
* All-rider motorcycle helmet law that requires motorcyclists of all ages to wear a helmet.

Child Passenger Safety (1 law)
* Child booster seat law that requires children from age 4 through age 7 to be placed in a booster seat.

Teen driving Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) law that phases in the full driving privilege in a three stage process and allows for primary enforcement of the law: (7 laws)
* A minimum age of 16 to obtain a learner’s permit.
* Learner’s Stage: A six-month “holding period” that requires beginning teen drivers to be supervised by an adult licensed driver at all times and to be citation-free before graduating to the provisional or intermediate stage
* Learner’s Stage: A minimum 30-50 hours of adult supervised driving with no reduction in required behind-the-wheel practice time for teens who take a driver’s education course.
* Intermediate Stage: A nighttime driving restriction provision that prohibits unsupervised driving from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m.
* Intermediate Stage: A passenger restriction of no more than one non-family teen passenger without adult supervision
* Learner’s and Intermediate Stages: A cell phone and texting restriction that prohibits the use of cellular devices (handheld and hands-free) by novice teen drivers, except in the case of an emergency.
* The minimum age for an unrestricted license is 18.

Impaired Driving (4 laws)
* Ignition-interlock devices (IID) required for all drunk-driving offenders.
* Child endangerment law for driving drunk with children in the motor vehicle.
* Mandatory blood-alcohol testing for any driver who is killed, or who survives a crash in which there is a fatality, to have his or her BAC tested.
* Open container ban in the passenger area of vehicles. The state law must match the requirements put forth in the federal TEA-21 law, which includes possession and consumption and allowing for primary enforcement.

Distracted Driving (1 law)
* A ban on text messaging for all drivers, except in the case of an emergency.
In each of the five issue categories, states were given one of three ratings based on how many optimal laws they have: Green (Good); Yellow (Caution – state needs improvement); and Red (Danger – state falls dangerously behind). Placement in one of the three ratings was based solely on whether or not a state had adopted a law as defined in the report, and not on any evaluation of a state’s highway safety education-enforcement program or on fatality rates.

While all this is quite interesting, rating a state by how many laws it has in place may not be the best way to go about ranking them.

Even if laws are in place that does not mean people will actually follow them.

New York made the green category as one of the top five states for traffic safety.

The ranking people have evidently never driven through Brooklyn where the car in front of you will suddenly stop, double parked in the middle of the street, while the driver runs into the deli to get a bialy.

And they are certainly missing out on driving an Arizona highway in a dust storm or trekking through Tucson where anyone who doesn’t tailgate ends up getting cut off and blinkers are foreign objects.

If they tried basing the ratings on those aspects, Arizona may even beat out South Dakota.


wb-logolilWhat do you think?

Would Arizona be a safer if all the recommended traffic laws were in place?

What traffic law are we missing that we need?

What traffic laws are annoying or stupid?

What driving laws do you constantly ignore?


About Rynski

Writer, artist, performer who specializes in the weird, wacky and sometimes creepy. Learn more at
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26 Responses to Arizona one of worst states in nation for driving, highway safety folks say

  1. Jennatoolz says:

    Heya Ryn!! Well…I’ll be honest here, I regularly break multiple traffic rules, but the poll will only let me select one — even though it says check all that apply, haha. Some of my regular rule breakings (from your poll above) are: speeding, sitting idle at a green light (because I’m busy texting), don’t always stop at stop signs (I roll very slowly through some, if it’s not a busy street), tailgating sometimes (if the person in front is a putt-putter), horn honking, and I’ll also add flipping the bird a time or two, and swearing at the other drivers even though they probably can’t hear me. Am I bad or what?! Maybe I shouldn’t be driving… 😛

    Do people really put 7 year olds in a booster seat??!! That just seems a bit old for a kid to be sitting in a booster seat. If it were me, I’d limit them to the back seat, and never the front seat. Ah well!

    • Jennatoolz says:

      PS – looks like the poll is fixed! Woohoo! Also, it’s probably a good thing I don’t have children in the car with the way I drive… eek! 😉

    • Rynski says:

      hiya jenna!
      just fixed the poll – so now you’re free to check ALL that apply, even the burger king cup throwing – hahaha.
      i’m not sure about folks putting 7-year-olds in booster seats – but that would have to be one VERY LARGE booster seat! whenever i hear about kid safety while driving i remember that photo of brittney spears driving with her toddler on her lap between her and the steering wheel.
      maybe she was driving through az at the time and helped wreck our ratings – hahah.
      kids in the back seat – but not the back of  pickup – seems a better choice, i agree. i even hate seeing dogs in the back of the pickup. also very paranoid about leaving new rakes and other merchandise out there, too, as they could be stolen.

      • Jennatoolz says:

        Thanks for fixin’ the poll Ryn! I would have just selected one option..but as you can see from my first comment, the poll would not have been scientifically correct. 😛

        True about the whole Brittney Spears/kid on lap thing…I remember as a kid growing up in a tiny town, my mom would let me “drive” while sitting on her lap. She’d control the gas/brake, and I’d control the steering wheel. Of course, we only did this in our neighborhood, and not out on the actual roads or anything. It was fun and I felt way cool! Haha

  2. radmax says:

    I am SHOCKED I tell you, SHOCKED to hear this!( apologies to Claude Raines) I’m even more surprised we didn’t beat the 8-9 drivers in South Dakota for worst in the land. I’ve never been in any place where more drivers feel a sense of entitlement which allows them to cut you off, change lanes in front of oncoming traffic at will or proceed down a closed lane and expect to be let in immediately. We also have a wealth of drivers who seem to be socializing or officing from their cars. Ok, I’m done venting, Mornin’ Rynski!
    Ps-the Old Pueblo, with all the road construction, oft times reminds me of a drivers ed. film.

    • Rynski says:

      mornin’ vent-o-max!
      i agree, wholeheartedly, with all your venting topics – heck, i’ll even honk my horn for that one!!
      also agree with a drive down the street often resembling a drivers ed. film. too funny. even w/out the construction thrown in! sometimes i just have to laugh at it – otherwise i’d tear my hair out.
      i also truly adore the entitlement pedestrians who jaywalk through the middle of a packed alvernon way and expect you to stop out of nowhere just because they feel like crossing. even seen mothers with baby carriages pulling that one – for real!

    • Jennatoolz says:

      Radmax, you must be following me around. Lol, I’m kidding. I’m bad, but not THAT bad. I don’t cut people off, and I use my blinkers when trying to get over. I just get a little “raged” when people in the next lane see my blinker and speed up just enough so that I can’t get over. Queue tailgating/honking/bird-flipping. 😛

      • radmax says:

        So you’re the one JT! 😉 Nah, just kiddin’, I do so damn much driving during the course of a work day that my frustration has ample opportunity to add me to our ever growing rabies stats. 🙂

      • Jennatoolz says:

        Note to self: Radmax has rabies, stay away from that guy. 😉

        Haha I know exactly what you mean. While I don’t do a whole lot of driving while at work (mostly I just sit there and twiddle my thumbs which you might think is a joke, it’s really not), but I do make frequent trips during the week all around town between job sites, school, and taking Dante to the dog park. My dad was a pretty aggressive driver, and I think I might have picked up some of his habits, hahah.

      • radmax says:

        Haha! The rabies are under control JT, most of the time(had ’em for years now) 😉 Aggressive driving is a fact of life around here. If you want to get anywhere in a reasonable amount of time you need quick decision making faculties, the reaction skills of a NASCAR driver and the patience and forgiving nature of Mother Teresa…unfortunately, this is very hard to accomplish while scolding little Johnnie in the backseat, texting your beau, eating a breakfast burrito and applying makeup simultaneously… 🙂 …I have a complete set of these for men also…so as to not be construed as sexist. 😉

  3. JohnnyLawsWife says:

    My husband is a DPS officer and he would wholeheartedly agree that Arizona is chock-full o’ horrible, no-good, very bad drivers!  The reason freeway fatalities have dropped 50% is because DPS almost doubled the workforce which means officers are getting to the accident in time to call life-flight.  I agree with you, stricter laws does not mean more obedience.  We do have a move-over law and most people completely ignore it.  Last week one driver decided to pass between a moving car and my husband’s patrol car ON THE SHOULDER! He did not slow down, and he came so close to my husband’s squad that he TOOK OFF THE MIRROR! (This just as he was getting ready to exit his vehicle).  So, tail-gate all you want (although I really don’t recommend it, its a great way to kill yourself and a few innocent, but slow people) honk your horn to your heart’s content, but please, please, PLEASE obey the move over law. (Which requires you to move over or at least significantly slow down whenever you pass stopped emergency vehicles.  Its also considerate to do the same for tow-trucks.)

    • Jennatoolz says:

      I knew about the move-over law after a coworker of mine was actually pulled over by an officer because she didn’t move over or slow down as she passed a stopped officer. The officer didn’t give her a ticket or anything, but did give her a very helpful pamphlet about this. She was nice enough to share it with the rest of our office staff…otherwise, I would have never known about that!

      I would even say it would be even more considerate to move-over or slow down when you see ANYONE, not just emergency vehicles, stopped on the side of the road. I’ll tell you, getting a flat on the freeway is a very, very frightening experience when trying to change the tire.

    • Rynski says:

      wow-ee, johnnylawswife, on reading this:
      “Last week one driver decided to pass between a moving car and my husband’s patrol car ON THE SHOULDER! He did not slow down, and he came so close to my husband’s squad that he TOOK OFF THE MIRROR!”
      what a jerk!
      very interesting to know fatalities are down because of increased workforce that gets folks help quicker. very interesting. love reasoning behind some stats.
      also thank you for reminding folks they can tailgate all they want but it is not a safe way to get point across. thanks, too, for reminder on MOVE OVER law. i esp. hate the stories of emergency assistance folks getting hit from drivers who decide they need to speed on by.

  4. Spectre says:

    I’ve seen more rear end collisions in Tucson than anywhere else I’ve ever driven. Another pet peev is people ignoring driving in the fast lane at 10 mph under the posted speed. Why do they have rear view mirrors if they can’t see the 2 mile clear road in front and the 5 mile line behind tehm in the fast lane? I think driving in the fast lane slow should have made your checklist girl. NOTE: often when you manage to get around the fast lane culprit they are busy chatting away on their cell phone.

    • Rynski says:

      here, here on the fast lane, spectre!
      many folks may not even know what the ‘fast lane’ is – and the other half, as you said, are prob. on dang cell phones!

  5. Az(White)Native says:

    We have such a bad “rating”  because of all the Mexicens. They have always been EXTREMELY bad drivers. US born or not. It is a known fact, that at least 80% (US and Mexico) do not have Auto Ins.

    • Linda G says:

      OMG…get a life! The MEXICANS????  DO YOU “KNOW” THIS AS A FACT or are you talking from you sitting orafice????????

      • Az(White)Native says:

        Was born and raised here. It’s a fact, deal with it.I  haved lived in many other States and and abroad. No other place has as many non-ins. drivers, of one ethnic group, than the Southwest. Have friends in the Ins. Biz; It is where I got my info, as well as The National Study of Traffic Hazards.

  6. Linda G says:

    Did they do this poll based on just drivers in Phoenix?  I drive both Phoenix and Tucson often and I gotta tell you Phoenix drivers make Tucson drivers look like Sun City drivers!… When I go to Phoenix I can “feel” myself turning into a version of Mario Andretti during the Indianapolis 500!  I either drive fast and defensively or end up on the side walk or concrete post!  I do agree that we do need to toughen our laws for DUI and for texting but what about speeding?  I still cant figure out why they post signed on the interstate telling us that Photo Radar is ahead.. IF you want to stop speeding dont post it 1 mile before  just let that van click away!  Also, we need more photo radar at the major intesections where there are the most accidents AND we need tougher laws if you hit a pedestrian!  Let’s count how many people have died on our streets here in Tucson lately just from walking!   I feel that people are in a rush becuse they dont allow themselves enough time to get where they are going… if that is true… and extra 5 minutes could save more than just the drivers life!  

    • Rynski says:

      hi linda g,
      thanks for comments.
      the rating was based on the number/types of traffic laws the state has.
      as you pointed out, there are several other issues that would be dandy to include in the rating system to make it more accurate.
      pedestrians are a big one – there do seem to be an awful lot of them hit. and the traffic camera with massive warning signs does seem a waste of resources.

  7. Ferraribubba says:

    Guilty as charged on two charges. Speeding and crossing over the double yellow line.
    But only in the Ferrari and only early Sunday mornings before 6 am,  going up Mt. Lemon Hwy.
    After a couple of cups of steaming hot black coffee, I liked to stretch her legs a bit and use all the technology that Enzo built into my Dino GT.
    Just listening to the four cam V-8 scream @6,500 rpm in 4th gear, with it’s four 2-barrel Weber carbs sucking in the air/gas mixture as we slid around the 70 mph corners, using opposite lock steering,  really wakes you up and makes you at one with the world.
    I’ve had some Ferrari owners tell me that it’s better than sex . . . but I wouldn’t go so far as to say that.
    The later was waiting for me at home anyway.<g>
    Yer pal, Ferrari Bubba

  8. klavdy says:

    I always lane split when traffic is snarled, just not when its moving more than about 25mph.
    If there’s traffic congestion or a red light up ahead, I’ll ride my motorcycle in between the cars and to the front at the lights or the congestion.
    This way I don’t take up a whole car space, more room for everyone else driving cars.
    All bikes should, it’s doing everyone driving a car a favour.
    If all bikes sat in the traffic like a car,taking up the same piece of road as a car, it would be even more crowded, car drivers journeys would take even longer , and people would get even more frustrated.
    All riders should do this as a public service.
    Next time you see a bike, move over a little, give them some room to get past,you’ll get to your destination quicker.
    Mind you,when done politely,most people don’t even know you’ve gone past them.

  9. Carolyn Classen says:

    Ryn, the fact that 62% of the voters in this poll admitted they speed sure doesn’t lend much confidence in Arizona drivers.  I rarely speed.

  10. missjez says:

    I am now completely frightened to drive on the roads.  Self admitted by so many people that they obey none of the laws of driving.  We all had to take the same test right?  We all understand the rules/laws are in place to keep ourselves and others safe, right?   Since when was speeding acceptable, and if you actually go the speed limit in the so called ‘fast’ lane, we are horrible people?  Get a clue guys and slow down.  Sailing down the 60 going 75 is not the safe way to get you where you need to be.

  11. AZ is a pretty relax state when it comes to DUI laws. Just have to be careful out there.

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