ATLANTA --- A group of medical and business organizations is launching a campaign Wednesday to try to persuade voters to support a $10 increase in car tags to fund a statewide network of trauma-care facilities.
Though the state has more than 100 hospitals with some type of emergency room, just 16 have what medical experts classify as a trauma-care center. That's about half of what is needed, the group says.
As a result, the death rate in Georgia from accidents such as falls and car wrecks is 20 percent higher than the national average.
"We don't think Georgians should be dying more than the national average because they live in Georgia," said Dr. Dennis Ashley, the chief of trauma care at the Medical Center of Central Georgia in Macon. "Our legislators finally heard it."
In the past legislative session, a change in the constitution adding the tag fee to voters on the November ballot.
Supporters of Constitutional Amendment 2 hope the annual fee will raise $80 million to upgrade emergency rooms, buy helicopters and hire trauma specialists to be on duty 24 hours each day.
At the beginning of the year, a law took effect adding $200 to speeding tickets for anyone caught driving more than 85 mph on a four-lane roadway or 75 mph on two lanes. But in the first eight months of the year, that program has triggered only $6 million in fines from 29,000 tickets, according to Susan Sports, of the Department of Driver Services.
In addition, those fines don't automatically go to trauma care because the legislature could use the money for other purposes any time it chooses.
The coalition behind the Yes Amendment 2 campaign is kicking in more than $1 million. Television ads will begin airing in Atlanta on Wednesday and in the rest of the state next month.
Medical professionals are frustrated that they lose 400-700 more Georgians to accidents each year than national averages would predict. That's because the trauma centers aren't spread evenly across the state so that patients can get there within 60 minutes of an accident.
"Sometimes, I'll get patients from south Georgia as far as two hours away," Ashley said. "Even if we have room for them and we can take them, that's a long way to go."