Thursday, August 15, 2013

New maps outlining state laws in two public health topics were published today on, the Public Health Law Research (PHLR) website dedicated to legal and policy surveillance. The two new state law maps on child restraint laws (i.e., seat belts) and scope of practice laws for dental hygienists add to an already existing library of state law maps on important public health issues, such as distracted driving, youth concussions, and sterile syringe access for drug users.

The maps are based on comprehensive datasets outlining laws across all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Each dataset is displayed through an interactive map that produces customized online infographics, and provides access to the legal text. Printable reports that present summary-level information for each dataset are also available, as well as access to all underlying raw data behind the dataset’s creation.

All datasets can be accessed through, an online platform developed by PHLR to be the central, authoritative place for the systematic collection, measurement and display of key laws related to public health.

Dental Hygienist Scope of Practice

Dental hygienists are essential to the effective delivery of oral health care in the United States. State laws and regulations define which oral health treatments may or may not be performed by dental hygienists. The laws and regulations often address where the treatments may be performed, under what supervision, and other requirements, such as licenses or education level.

This dataset explores the law as it relates to dental hygienist licensing requirements, authority, and supervision requirements across all 50 states.

Child Restraint Systems

Vehicular crashes continue to be the number one cause of accidental death for U.S. children less than 12 years old. The first federal child passenger safety restraint regulations and guidance were passed in 1971. Since then, every state and the District of Columbia have enacted its own set of regulations that build upon the federal requirements. These regulations are aimed at reducing the number of injuries and deaths of children as a result of automobile accidents.

This dataset examines the variation among state height and age requirements for certain child restraint systems, when a seat belt alone may be allowed, and the monetary fines associated with violating the laws meant to keep children safe.

Traditionally, the process of tracking laws and policies (also known as policy surveillance) has been cumbersome and disjointed. The methods of collecting and displaying the information have varied vastly, and the information has become outdated quickly. LawAtlas provides standardized and transparent procedures for tracking and updating laws, making policy surveillance easier, more flexible, more credible, more interactive, and less expensive.

LawAtlas has two main components:, which publically displays the law and legal datasets through reports and interactive maps; and the WorkBench, the content management system used to produce the datasets. WorkBench is the only software system designed especially for collecting, coding and displaying legal data.