Car fee, speeding fines could fund trauma care

ATLANTA --- Speeders and drivers renewing their car registration every year would pay extra to fund trauma care in Georgia, under a proposal House Speaker Glenn Richardson said he will make a priority in the coming legislative session.

The fines and fees are projected to generate about $85 million. Mr. Richardson said a sizable chunk of that would likely go to beleaguered Grady Memorial Hospital. The Atlanta public hospital, which serves many of the region's needy and severely injured, is facing a massive deficit that threatens to put it out of business. The other 14 trauma centers throughout the state have also complained of underfunding.

"I've waited and watched and it's time to do something about it. We need a funding source and we need to get it going soon," Mr. Richardson said.

He said motor vehicle accidents account for some 70 percent of trauma injuries so it makes sense to have drivers bear the burden.

Mr. Richardson said the proposal would tack on an extra $10 fee on vehicle tag renewals. It would also slap steep fines on so-called super speeders, those driving more than 85 miles per hour.

The death rate in Georgia from traumatic injury is 20 times the national average, and ways to provide the hospitals that treat trauma victims was discussed frequently during the last legislative session but ultimately went nowhere. Mr. Perdue's plan to fine super speeders was one casualty of the session.

Mr. Richardson said the governor was on board with the plan, which would combine the speeder proposal with the tag fee.

"I believe me and the governor being together on it is a very good step in the right direction," Mr. Richardson told reporters on Thursday.

But a spokesman for Mr. Perdue said the governor had not made any decision yet on trauma funding.

"There was a meeting with the speaker and there were good productive discussions," Perdue spokesman Bert Brantley said.