Highway safety advocates have released the seventh annual report card grading all 50 states and the District of Columbia on their performance when it comes to adopting and maintaining model traffic safety laws. This year the report publishers, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, say they’ve upped the ante, taking closer aim at three particular areas in need of stronger enforcement — text messaging, graduated driver licensing (GDL) programs and ignition‐interlock laws for drunk‐driving offenders, according to a press release issued by the organization.

New to the set of 15 model laws Advocates evaluated in its2010 Roadmap Report on State Highway Safety Laws— including seat belt, booster seat and motorcycle helmet measures — is an all‐driver text messaging ban.

Also new are two more restrictions for teen drivers in GDL programs: setting the minimum age for a learner’s permit at 16 and requiring an applicant for an unrestricted license to be 18. In the area of drunk driving, Advocates this year dropped its review of some components in favor of more stringent guidelines for ignition-interlock devices.

The result is that six states which last year earned Green ratings, the highest grade for model performance, this year fell to Yellow ratings, and an additional six states fell from the Yellow zone to the worst‐performing Red zone. One state was added to the Green category, while another improved from Red to Yellow.

“Our goal this year in adjusting the 15 model laws that we evaluate was not to make it harder for states to earn the Green rating,” said Judith Lee Stone, president of Advocates. “Rather our intent was to highlight the documented need for more states to adopt these highly‐effective lifesaving laws aimed at high‐risk behaviors.”

Advocates Vice President Jackie Gillan added that the 2010 highway safety report cards are being released as state legislatures across the country are convening their 2010 sessions. “Timing is everything, and the time is right to increase the pressure on states to act urgently to pass these lifesaving laws this year. If our state legislatures cannot find a way to adopt these model laws, we have Congress waiting in the wings to compel them do finally do so.”

For more information and a listing of each state’s grade,go here.