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Lawmaker wants seat belts in vans, church buses

Thursday, Feb. 28, 2013 7:33 AM
Last updated 8:05 PM
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ATLANTA -- A freshman legislator who’s also the former head of the State Patrol has sponsored a trio of bills related to safety that are already drawing attention.

One would require seat belts in passenger vans and small church buses. Another would pave the way for destroying dogs that attack people. But the most discussed so far is one that limits cruising in the left-hand lane when faster drivers want to pass.

As Commissioner of Public Safety, Rep. Bill Hitchens, R-Rincon, also served as colonel of the Georgia State Patrol oversaw traffic enforcement across the state.

“In my past life, I received a lot of complaints from the public,” he said. “I would say I received an equal number of complaints from the public and the law-enforcement community that people get in that left lane and block traffic.”

He said he’s seen it in 43 years of driving between Savannah and Atlanta in his career. Often, drivers in back begin tailgating, flashing lights and becoming aggressive. Although the aggressive drivers who are usually intent on speeding are in the wrong, he said his legislation, House Bill 459, aims to avoid problems.

“The whole thing as I see it is safety,” he said.

When someone wants to pass him – say when he’s cruising in the left lane to avoid uneven pavement in the right – he gladly gets out of their way.

The bill outlaws driving in the fast lane except to pass another vehicle or when road construction, weather or other circumstances require it. But, it’s allowed when no one is directly behind wanting to pass.

If the House and Senate agree, it would become law should the governor sign it and take effect July 1.

HB 365 expands the number of vehicles requiring seat belts. Only buses capable of carrying more than 15 passengers would be exempt.

He said large vans are at risk of turning over, and the passengers are usually children riding to private schools, church or team outings.

“It’s probably the most dangerous type vehicles,” he said.

And HB 488 dealing with dogs who have attacked people is based on a situation in Savannah where a dog violently attacked a 5-year-old, Effingham County boy. The owners of the dog, Kno, voluntarily surrendered the animal after a court hearing determined it was a vicious dog.

A lawyer appointed to represent the dog has custody of Kno but has been unsuccessful in finding a new home for it. Hitchens’ bill would allow the dog to be destroyed.

A law governing dangerous dogs contains provisions for animals that aren’t surrendered but not in the case where the owner gives it up.

Hitchens said he’s gotten more than his share of emails and phone calls for a rookie politician, mostly about the lane-hog bill. The majority have been supportive, but at least a couple object because they say it encourages speeding.

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Little Lamb
Little Lamb 02/28/13 - 09:28 am

He's gone to meddling when he attempts to regulate church vans. I don't think we need any more regulations there. There are plenty already.

seenitB4 02/28/13 - 09:55 am
Worn roads

If we create laws that mandate that drivers always drive on the right side....we will have WORN PITTED roads .....just have drivers move to the right side when necessary....why do we need laws for EVERYTHING!!!

seenitB4 02/28/13 - 09:57 am
Church vans

Let the church run their buses....stay out of it...geez

Enough to make a church goer cuss..

Riverman1 02/28/13 - 11:30 am
His 30 years with the State

His 30 years with the State Patrol built up a lot of things in him I suppose. If a former baker were elected we would have laws about bread and cakes.

TakeAHike 02/28/13 - 12:25 pm
Enables lawbreakers

So this dingbat thinks lawful drivers shouldn't be able to drive in the left lanes? Isn't he just enabling the lawbreakers who are intent on speeding and harassing other drivers? Honestly, I can't think of many times when I've seen a vehicle blocking the left lane by going below the posted speed limit. More often the driver who is getting "blocked" is some idiot going way over the speed limit and aggressively weaving in and out of the lane. The speed limits are quite high already. Do you really need to go more than 65 and 70 mph? Nope, the difference in travel time is negligible. Ticket more speeders, and use the money to repair the roads. Problem solved!

Why don't church vans in GA have seat belts? That's just stupid. Who'd let their kid ride in one? It's a case of natural selection in action in the making.

Darby 02/28/13 - 01:24 pm
There's nothing wrong with this country....

that a few more (ill considered) laws won't fix..

Look how well it's worked in the past. I'd have thought our elected reps would have solved every conceivable problem by now.

Darby 02/28/13 - 05:30 pm
Every newbie under the dome....

feels pressure to leave his mark on the history books....

soapy_725 03/01/13 - 07:00 am
Seat belts for bikes, motor cycles,

tricycles, golf carts. We have them on grocery carts.

Let's idiot proof the world. That task would create millions of jobs. And we have a ready source of expertise.

nocnoc 03/01/13 - 08:29 am
The voters elect these over reaching politicals

So we should be pointing the finger at ourselves.
Question: If it is needed for Church buses and Van. Then why not School Buses and City Buses?

Remember seat belts do accomplish a few things.
* Save lives in certain circumstances,
* Keep the bodies in the car to make it easier to sort who was with who for the police.
* Cause back and neck injuries which mean higher lawsuits settlements for you and your lawyers.
* sometimes trap people wreck burning cars.
* keep occupants from ending up on the hood or in the road.

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