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MIAMI (CBSMiami) — A new study shows a lack of driver safety laws could help explain the surging number of people killed in accidents.

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The report ranks driving safety laws nationwide and ranked Rhode Island at the top in terms of safety while South Dakota is at the very bottom.

James Shaffer’s wife Emma and their 12-year-old daughter were driving in Denton, Texas last April. They were struck head on by a 24-year-old mother who had her young daughter in the car. Police believe she was texting.  All four died in the crash.

“Our lives have been drastically changed and shattered,” said Shaffer.

Shaffer said he would never forget having to tell his son the news.

“Sitting him down and having to explain to him that his mother and sister were gone and had died was probably the hardest thing I have ever had to do in my life,” said Shaffer.

Texas state law only bans drivers under 18 from texting. An all-driver texting ban is among 15 safety laws the new report says every state should have.

The measures range from primary enforcement of seat belts to graduated driver licenses for teens and ignition locks for DUI offenders.

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The report gave low marks to 17 states for being “dangerously behind” in adopting “optimal laws.”

South Dakota scored at the bottom with just two of the 15.

The Mount Rushmore state governor’s office blamed the legislature.

Jackie Gillan is the president of the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety.

“I think there’s resistance in state legislatures to tell people to buckle up or put their kids in a proper child restraint and we need to change that,” said Gillan.

Earlier this month, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimated nearly 28 thousand people died in crashes during the first nine months of 2016. That number is up about 8 percent from 2015, which saw the biggest rise in deaths in 50 years.

Advocates for highway and auto safety argue there is also an economic cost that comes with the crashes.

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According to the report, motor vehicle accidents cost about $242 billion a year.  That so-called “crash tax” boils down to nearly $800 per person in the U.S.