The number of highway fatalities in Pennsylvania rose 5.4 percent last year after several years of declines, with significant spikes in accidents involving teen drivers and people not wearing seat belts, AAA Mid-Atlantic reported Friday.
There were 1,324 fatalities in 2010, 64 more than in 2009, according to AAA, who said a rebounding economy also contributed to the rise as more drivers headed out on the road. The number of people who died not wearing seatbelts went up 16 percent to 524, while deaths involving 16- and 17-year-old drivers increased more than 40 percent, the group said.
AAA is pushing Pennsylvania to join 31 other states who have "primary" seat belt laws enabling police to cite motorists and passengers who are observed not wearing a seat belt. Right now, Pennsylvania has a "secondary" seat belt law in which police can only issue citations for seat belt violations if a motorist has been pulled over for some other offense.
The group is also urging the state to ban text messaging behind the wheel and to restrict the number of passengers new teen drivers can carry.
"Driving a vehicle is one of the most dangerous things a teen will do, because teens are more likely to take risks, not buckle their seatbelts and speed," said Rick Remington, a AAA spokesman in Philadelphia.
"As a leader in teen driver safety for over 75 years, AAA knows that we need to be doing all that we can to make our most vulnerable drivers safer on the roads."
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