Georgia is last state to hold out on pickup seat belt legislation

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ATLANTA --- Just about every state has responded to the pickup's rising popularity by requiring adults to wear seat belts in trucks -- except Georgia.

The fight over seat belts is a familiar one in Georgia, waged just about every year in the state Legislature with no resolution. At least three House bills to require seat belts in pickups are pending, and the Senate has already adopted its own proposal.

But there's hope this year that lawmakers could enact the changes, now that Georgia has emerged as the lone holdout state that doesn't require adults in pickups to wear seat belts.

"This is the year it should pass," said Sen. Don Thomas, a physician who sponsored one of the bills. "It's embarrassing. Instead of making our state look tough, it makes us look foolish."

There's little doubt that the laws could prevent dozens of deaths and hundreds of injuries each year. On a nuts-and-bolts level, they can save millions of dollars in medical costs, not to mention help secure more federal highway money.

There are no known lobbyists lined up against the effort, but attempts to pass tougher seat belt laws in Georgia were blocked for years by lawmakers -- particularly those from rural counties -- who said wearing seat belts is a matter of personal freedom.

"I'm a free-spirited guy. I believe that people should wear their seat belts. I just don't believe the government should tell you to," said state Sen. Jeff Mullis, a north Georgia Republican who voted against the requirements.

The sentiment strikes a chord with many in south Georgia.

"We got enough laws on the books for law enforcement to enforce, and the seat belt law is another way to tack on something," said Phil Burrell, a 34-year-old pickup driver who lives in Sylvester, a southwest Georgia town of about 6,000.

He said he'd abide by the new law if it passes, but he's not sure it would make him safer.

"When the good Lord calls me home," he said, "a seat belt ain't going to stop it."

State Rep. Calvin Hill, a north Georgia Republican, figured he had a great shot to pass seat belt legislation two years ago. Insurers, public-safety groups and auto associations lined up in favor of his bill, and he armed lawmakers with statistics on the number of lives a tweaking of the law could save.

The bill never made it to a vote. "There's still, throughout rural Georgia, the thought that having a seat belt on a pickup is such an invasive thing on their privacy," Mr. Hill said.

Indiana used to be aligned with Georgia on the pickup seat belts question, but it enacted a law last year requiring seat belts in trucks after lawmakers agreed to also block police from using checkpoints to enforce seat belt compliance.

Mr. Thomas concedes a compromise in Georgia might be trickier.

"They don't want government interfering with what we do. But what's the difference (between) buckling up in a pickup truck and buckling up in a car?" asked Mr. Thomas, a Republican. "We talk about being conservatives and saving lives and saving taxpayer dollars. This is an excellent opportunity to prove it."

The latest report on seat belt use by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration shows that seat belts in pickups helped reduce risk of fatal injury by 60 percent, and that about seven in 10 people who died in crashes involving pickups were not wearing a seat belt.

The federal government has long tied highway money to seat belt restrictions. Georgia missed out on $20.7 million that was available under a 2005 federal highway law because it didn't change its law. AAA estimates the state could save $17 million over 10 years in medical costs by changing the seat belt law.

SEAT BELT SITUATION

BACKGROUND: Nearly every year, the Georgia Legislature struggles with seat belt requirements for pickups. With Indiana enacting a law last year on the issue, Georgia is the last state lacking such a law.

THE LATEST:


- There's hope that 2008 could be the year lawmakers enact changes because Georgia is the lone holdout.


- A recent report by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration shows that seat belts in pickups helped reduce the risk of fatal injury by 60 percent.


- Demographics could drive new legislation as metro Atlanta's population swells into surrounding areas, perhaps eroding traditional rural resistance to the law.


AGAINST CHANGE: Some lawmakers, particularly those from rural counties, have blocked previous proposals, saying wearing seat belts is a matter of personal freedom.

Comments (40)

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patriciathomas
42
Points
patriciathomas 01/27/08 - 05:32 am
0
0

Every time I see a stat

Every time I see a stat showing how many people die wearing seat belts compared to those not wearing seat belts, it seems the belt wearers are the largest numbers. If we live our life by government stats, it seems we'd insist on not wearing seat belts. The contradiction is confusing.

common-sense-justice
0
Points
common-sense-justice 01/27/08 - 07:06 am
0
0

I believe in laws that

I believe in laws that protect children, so I agree that kids should buckle up in anything that moves. But if I as a adult want to take a chance on being thrown out of my truck, that should be my business and not the State's. I have insurance to take care of me, so I would not ask Big Brother for anything if I got hurt. Laws like this are simply revenue tools, and give those super-stupid-troopers something else to use to harass people.

naugliberal
0
Points
naugliberal 01/27/08 - 08:17 am
0
0

More people die without

More people die without seatbelts in accidents. You seldom get thrown out of a vehicle wearing a seatbelt. There is no contradiction. As for accidents, total up the number of people who need assistance (beyond insurance) after accidents and you will see that we all pay.

Batman
16
Points
Batman 01/27/08 - 08:45 am
0
0

I've never understood why the

I've never understood why the occupants of cars are required to where seat beats while riders on motorcycles do not. Why not outlaw motorcycles because of the danger they preset to the riders not to mention the medical cost associated with a motorcycle accident. Seriously in my opinion the only seatbelt laws should be to bucket up kids and the disabled. Otherwise the government should stay out of our business. Please let people make these kind of decisions for themselves. Stop the "nanny state"!

barchafin
0
Points
barchafin 01/27/08 - 08:55 am
0
0

I believe that the only

I believe that the only reason that they don't require seat belts on people on trucks or motorcycles is because of the power and money of the automobile companies.

a crazy old man
30
Points
a crazy old man 01/27/08 - 09:21 am
0
0

I see super-stupid

I see super-stupid people.....

genbartow
0
Points
genbartow 01/27/08 - 09:30 am
0
0

Are they going to make the

Are they going to make the farmer buckle up before he can go feed his cows?

GASUNSHINE08
0
Points
GASUNSHINE08 01/27/08 - 09:31 am
0
0

And why would you put

And why would you put seatbelts on motorcycles? That is the stupidest thing I ever heard. When the bike goes over, a seat belt is going to allow you to be dragged along with that motorcyle. Being dragged adds up to being skinned, broken bones, head trauma, and more than likely dead. No seatbelt allows you to let go of the bike & hopefully roll to the side and manage to survive the crash.

patriciathomas
42
Points
patriciathomas 01/27/08 - 10:11 am
0
0

More people die with seat

More people die with seat belt on then die with seat belts off. Government stats. Getting thrown out of a vehicle isn't the only way to die. I agree with batman, this isn't an issue to be decided by the state.

Iceman
0
Points
Iceman 01/27/08 - 10:23 am
0
0

Sure, more people die with

Sure, more people die with seat belts on than with seat belts off...... Do you reckon that is because MORE PEOPLE WEAR SEAT BELTS? Why don't you make a statement about the RATE of deaths of seatbelt wearers versus those who don't?

Amazing......

Chuchi
2
Points
Chuchi 01/27/08 - 10:52 am
0
0

As free adult Americans we

As free adult Americans we have the right to do as we please according to our own safety preferences. In other words, we can be careless with our own health and safety. I would never set foot in a car without seat belts, but I feel it is unconstitutional to demand that a grownup wear one.

barchafin
0
Points
barchafin 01/27/08 - 11:21 am
0
0

I believe that the only

I believe that the only reason that they don't pass wearing seat belts in trucks is because of the money that all the auto companies have to keep this law from being passed. There is nothing more frustrating to see than people riding in the back of pickups without anything to keep them from being thrown out,

Itll be alright
0
Points
Itll be alright 01/27/08 - 11:43 am
0
0

I'll wear a seatbelt when I

I'll wear a seatbelt when I get good a da......ready. OKKKKKKKKKKK

lookingfortruth
0
Points
lookingfortruth 01/27/08 - 12:20 pm
0
0

what about the hudreds of

what about the hudreds of school buses that do not have seat belts?

Rose
17
Points
Rose 01/27/08 - 12:38 pm
0
0

Since when do more people die

Since when do more people die wearing seatbelts? I don't believe that.

Edward B. Turner
66
Points
Edward B. Turner 01/27/08 - 12:53 pm
0
0

Whether it is required or

Whether it is required or not, if you are stupid enough not to wear a seat belt and you are in a wreck that kills or disables you, then you've gotten what you deserve.People, you don't have to have the government to be your overseeing "mommy and daddy." Just use common sense and buckle up.

Rose
17
Points
Rose 01/27/08 - 12:56 pm
0
0

I don't even crank up till I

I don't even crank up till I am bucked up.

carrera gt
0
Points
carrera gt 01/27/08 - 01:10 pm
0
0

How about making it against

How about making it against the law to have workers sitting in the bed of a pickup truck. This is something you see in the summer. Five or six men sitting in the back of truck with all kinds of tools and equipment in it. Sadly, it will take an accident that kills several of these laborers to get TV and newspapers to do stories that might add this to the change in pickup truck seatbelt laws...if there ever are any?

lookingfortruth
0
Points
lookingfortruth 01/27/08 - 02:15 pm
0
0

what about the thousands of

what about the thousands of school buses in the us that do noy have seatbelts?

Why
3
Points
Why 01/27/08 - 02:50 pm
0
0

While Georgia has really

While Georgia has really stepped to the front on so many issues - we look like idiots on this one!

patriciathomas
42
Points
patriciathomas 01/27/08 - 03:34 pm
0
0

The biggest contribution seat

The biggest contribution seat belts seem to make is to convince many people that they're bulletproof if they're wearing their seat belts. They don't have to be as attentive or experienced as long as they're wearing their seat belts. Want to cut down on highway deaths and wrecks? Driver training and adult like driving will handle the problem. If the state were REALLY concerned about safety in vehicles, then all drivers and passengers would be required to wear fire suits, shin guards, helmets and mouth guards along with the seat belt. Seat belts for children make sense since their feet don't touch the floor and they're not able to pay attention for more then a few seconds. Adult seat belts are just another way to generate revenue. Responsible, aware drivers seldom have wrecks.

Rose
17
Points
Rose 01/27/08 - 04:18 pm
0
0

Seatbelts do save lives.

Seatbelts do save lives. There are more injuries beeing tossed around inside a car than by staying strapped in. I tell you what. Call the Sheriff and ask him do seatbelts save lives. They know first hand.

Little Lamb
40303
Points
Little Lamb 01/27/08 - 04:36 pm
0
0

Headline: "Georgia is last

Headline: "Georgia is last state to hold out on pickup seat belt legislation" Somebody has to be last.

jack
10
Points
jack 01/27/08 - 04:46 pm
0
0

If no seat belts required for

If no seat belts required for pick ups trucks, why require them for SUVs (just a fancy, enclosed pick up truck that is even safer).?

patriciathomas
42
Points
patriciathomas 01/27/08 - 05:24 pm
0
0

Rose, adult, attentive

Rose, adult, attentive drivers have almost no wrecks. No wrecks, no tossing around. No tossing around, no injuries. No injuries, no deaths. Trying to replace safe driving with seat belts is another government scam similar to replacing fathers with checks. It won't work. Personal responsibility is almost always the answer.

tmax72
0
Points
tmax72 01/27/08 - 06:37 pm
0
0

I have read two or three

I have read two or three people ask why there is not any seatbelts on a public school bus??? No one has dared try to answer this question. Officers get down right mad as they should about a child not buckled in but yet they smile and wave as a bus flies by doing 55 mph. There is no difference between a car owned and operated by the childrens parents and an unknown driver taking them to and from school. The only problem is that then there would not be overcrowding of a bus allowed only two to a seat for the seatbelt to be fastened. Right now that would mean more buses that would need to be bought and the state is not going to do that how about the money that is supposed to be coming from people wearing seatbelts go toward adding more buses with mandatory seatbelts???????

Give credit where due
2
Points
Give credit where due 01/27/08 - 06:39 pm
0
0

It seems more and more of our

It seems more and more of our rights are being dictated .. why is it that we can't take a vote on this ? I think it should be up to the person to decide if he or she wants to wear the seat belts ..seems to me more and more people are becoming less responsible as drivers than ever before . How many times have you had cars pull out in front of you .. while you had the right of way ? they dont even stop to look to see if a vehicle is coming.Then theres the people who want to lay in the seat and drive .. How alert are they? Were they laying down when they went to get their permit to drive also ? This is just another way to get money from people as in fines and tickets.

Rose
17
Points
Rose 01/27/08 - 06:52 pm
0
0

patriciathomas,Ok then. You

patriciathomas,Ok then. You ride with yours unfastened and I will ride with mine fastened.I still disagree with you. Just ask the ones who know- Sheriff's dept, drs, Trauma Center, Coroner.

Rose
17
Points
Rose 01/27/08 - 07:01 pm
0
0

No matter how safe a driver

No matter how safe a driver is, he can still have a serious accident. A relative of mine was involved in an accident. Some idiot ran a red light and hit him. He did not have his belt fastened, and his head almost went through the windshield. His girlfriend was seriously injured but recovered.He wears his seatbelt now. When I saw the windshield bubbled out in his head print, and the accident was not his fault.

justus4
93
Points
justus4 01/27/08 - 07:13 pm
0
0

"Foolish" best describe GA &

Unpublished

"Foolish" best describe GA & it's belated attempt to correct truck seatbealt laws. Why do women sit near the driver (if a male), while operating a pickup? It seems something that southerners do without regard to the possible dangers. Maybe they are not bright enough to figure out where to sit. And this law will help some folks understand the value of seatbelts. It is ABOUT time.

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