Six pieces of legislation improve safety on Delaware’s roadways
DOVER, Del. – Governor John Carney on Friday joined the Delaware Department of Transportation (DelDOT), the Delaware Department of Safety and Homeland Security (DSHS), members of the General Assembly, and advocates to sign a package of legislation designed to improve safety on Delaware’s roadways.
Today’s legislative package includes bills to:
- Curb speeding and reckless driving
- Expand “Move Over” protections
- Require helmets in the first two years of a motorcycle license
- Strengthen child safety seat requirements
- Enable green lights on snow plows to increase visibility
“It’s our responsibility to keep Delawareans safe,” said Governor Carney. “This package of legislation, along with the current activities and protection measures, will save lives. Thank you to all the members of the General Assembly, the teams at the Departments of Transportation and Safety and Homeland Security, and advocates for their commitment to these pieces of legislation. Please drive safely this Fourth of July holiday.”
“Delaware has had 43 fatalities on our roads since Governor Carney announced the introduction of these bills three months ago, bringing our total for the year to 75. We are grateful to the state legislators who stepped forward to sponsor and support these bills, and Governor Carney for signing this package into law today as we enter peak summer travel season on our roads,” said Secretary of Transportation Nicole Majeski.
“We continue to see an alarming number of fatalities on our roadways. Our top priority is safety. These legislative proposals are a step in the right direction in reversing that trend. By promoting awareness, advocating for necessary changes, and adhering to safe practices we can create a lasting impact on roadway safety and improve driving behaviors in our communities,” said Secretary of Safety and Homeland Security Nathaniel McQueen, Jr.
Safety is a priority for Governor Carney’s administration, and the pieces of legislation announced today add to efforts already underway. Current actions by the Delaware State Police and DelDOT to address traffic safety include:
- Increased enforcement for speeding and distracted drivers;
- Increased multi-modal safety investments statewide;
- Increased enforcement of illegal truck parking;
- Pilot of a wrong way driver notification system;
- And increased intersection safety measures including don’t block the box and red light running.
Governor Carney’s Fiscal Year 24 recommended budget also includes funding to create a Traffic Education and Enforcement Unit. This new unit of 11 officers will patrol Delaware’s highest incident roadways to help curb excessive speeding and prevent accidents.
As part of the legislative package, House Bill 120, sponsored by Representative Franklin Cooke and Senator Kyra Hoffner, establishes speeding violations of 90 miles per hour or more as a Reckless Driving offense, subject to fines, traffic school, or community service picking up litter on the side of the road. Speeding was a contributor to 26 fatal crashes in Delaware from 2020 – 2022.
“During my career as a police officer I witnessed far too many motor vehicle crashes and roadway fatalities,” said Representative Frank Cooke. “We know that speeding is often a contributing factor. This bill adds a reckless driving offense if a driver is operating a vehicle at 90 miles per hour, or more, on any roadway.”
“Delaware is among the states who have the highest amount of traffic fatalities — many of which involve or are the direct result of a driver speeding,” said Senator Kyra Hoffner. “By penalizing drivers who travel at extreme speeds, we can hopefully change behaviors and help to save lives.”
House Bill 92, otherwise known as “Move over” legislation, led by Representative William Carson, Senate Majority Whip Elizabeth Lockman, and Senator Stephanie Hansen, requires drivers to change lanes or reduce their speed while approaching any stationary vehicle on the shoulder or in the roadway displaying warning signals. Warning signals may include vehicle hazard warning lights, road flares, traffic cones, cautions signs, or any non-vehicular warning signs. In 2022, 13 people were killed in Delaware while in or near stopped vehicles.
“The goal is to provide extra space and mitigate accidents from happening along our roadways,” said Representative William Carson. “It’s important to consider everyone’s safety. This new law enhances Delaware’s existing Move Over Law, which focuses on law enforcement and first responders, adding others who may be working along our roadways.”
“Those of us who drive every day for work and for other obligations often take for granted what a big responsibility highway driving is, and how careful we need to be when doing it,” said Senate Majority Whip Elizabeth Lockman. “This bill merely codifies something of a social contract that we already have — or should have — with other drivers. When a disabled vehicle is stopped on the side of the road, we should be courteous and get out of their way. It’s as simple as that.”
“More than three years ago, I began working with the State to create a public dashboard for Delawareans to access data about car accidents across our state. In doing that work, I have spoken with a lot of highway safety experts and have learned a great deal about what causes car crashes. Two of the top contributors are speeding and distracted driving — both of which can cause serious problems when there’s a disabled vehicle on the side of the road,” said Senator Stephanie Hansen. “That’s why I am proud to have co-sponsored House Bill 92, which requires drivers to move over and do their part to prevent an accident from happening.”
Senate Bill 86 led by Senate President Pro Tempore David Sokola, Representative Sean Lynn, and Representative Danny Short, requires all riders to wear a helmet in their first two years of having a motorcycle endorsement. Statistics from the Delaware Department of Transportation show that 25 percent of serious injury and fatal accidents among Delaware licensed motorcycles riders occurred within their first two years of obtaining a license. Over the last five years, 35 motorcyclists were killed and 143 were seriously injured on Delaware roadways while not wearing helmets.
“We have learned from our Graduated License Law that there is an undeniable safety benefit from having more restrictions early in one’s time on the road, and then adding privileges with more driving experience,” said Senate President Pro Tempore Dave Sokola. “By law, we require motorcyclists to have a helmet on their bike; let’s finish the job and make sure that these helmets are actually being put to use and keeping people safe.”
“As someone who has been on the scene of countless motorcycle accidents, and being an avid rider myself, I’ve witnessed the life-saving benefits of wearing a helmet firsthand,” said Representative Danny Short. “This new law could easily be called the Delaware Funeral Reduction Act. I believe its enactment will prevent a lot of families from grieving over a preventable tragedy.”
“Last year we lost 12 people to motorcycle fatalities,” said Representative Sean Lynn. “Helmets reduce the risk of head injury by 69 percent. This new law will help us to ensure that conditions are safer for those operating and riding a motorcycle by requiring everyone who obtains a new endorsement, or are riding with a new rider, wear a helmet and eye protection.”
Senate Bill 86, introduced by Senator Kyle Evans Gay and Representative Krista Griffith, requires children under two and under 30 pounds to be in a rear-facing seat with a 5 point harness, and those under 4 and under 40 pounds would need to be in either a front- or rear-facing seat with a 5 point harness. From age 4-16, it would be required to use a booster to the maximum height and weight limits, then use a seatbelt. Enforcement would not take place until after a year-long awareness campaign. This proposed revision to Delaware’s child safety seat requirements adds specificity to the law, which currently only requires an “appropriate” car seat or booster.
“To keep children safe on the road, adults need to know how to properly secure children in car seats and booster seats,” said Senator Kyle Evans Gay. “This bill achieves that goal by updating the law to reflect modern safety guidelines, and by prioritizing education, so that any person responsible for a child’s well-being is best prepared to keep that child safe.”
“We know that seat belts and other safety measures work,” said Representative Krista Griffith. “This new law ensures that those driving a motor vehicle on Delaware roadways are taking responsibility for every passenger, correctly and consistently ensuring everyone is buckled up and secured properly.”
“In Delaware, we have seen a 42 percent increase in child deaths and serious injuries as a result of motor vehicle collisions in the last year,” said Jennifer McCue, Injury Prevention Coordination, Trauma Program, Nemours Children’s Hospital, Delaware. “At Nemours Children’s Health, we are committed to creating the healthiest generations of children, which includes preventing potential injuries, like those caused by driving related incidents. We are thrilled to see Senate Bill 68 signed into law today and recognize that this law will make a meaningful impact on keeping our children safe on Delaware’s roadways while providing education for parents and caregivers on this important topic.”
Senate Bill 89 allows state-owned and operated snow plows to use a revolving or flashing green light and was sponsored by Senator Spiros Mantzavinos and Representative William Carson. Green lights have been found to be better seen in snowy conditions than white or amber lights due to the increased contrast, and have been adopted for plows in recent years by states including Michigan and Ohio. Flashing or revolving lights on vehicles must be authorized through legislation.
“While it’s important to have adequate lighting on every vehicle, it’s especially critical to ensure that snow plows — which are only ever on the road during harsh weather conditions — are equipped with the lights they need to be visible,” said Senator Spiros Mantzavinos. “This simple bill will have a profound impact on road safety.”
“Snowstorms and other wintery conditions can make it challenging for others to see during winter weather operations,” said Representative William Carson. “Using green lights creates a greater contrast and improves visibility, making state owned vehicles more identifiable to other motorists, especially during snowstorms and other storm conditions. This new law will also ensure we are meeting National Highway Safety standards.”
“The danger starts the moment someone stops on the roadside,” says Jana Tidwell, AAA Public and Government Affairs Manager. “This change to Delaware’s Move Over law helps to protect them, along with our first responders, law enforcement officers, highway maintenance crew members and tow truck operators.”
Additionally, House Substitute 1 for House Bill 94 implements a five-year trial run of a system that would permit the use of automatic speed cameras in work zones and residential areas within municipalities.
“Electronic enforcement of our traffic laws have been helpful in reducing accidents while allowing police to focus on other public safety concerns. Speeding through construction zones and residential areas are especially dangerous because of workers, pedestrians and children in those areas,” said Representative Ed Osienski, who sponsored HS 1 for HB 94. “This new law aims to tackle that problem through a pilot program using speed cameras in problem areas throughout our state. By testing the program, we will learn how to best implement this system if it works at reducing speeding and saving lives.”
Additional information about the legislative package can be found at de.gov/trafficsafety
Video of the event can be found on Governor Carney’s YouTube.
Photos of the event can be found on Governor Carney’s Flickr.