Ga. Senate backs seat belts for pickups

Thursday, Feb. 12, 2009 2:02 PM
Last updated 4:47 PM
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ATLANTA - Adults in pickup trucks would finally have to buckle up, under a bill that sailed through the state Senate on Thursday.

Georgia is the only state in the nation that specifically exempts adults in pickups from wearing seat belts. That defiant stance has cost the state millions of dollars in federal highway funds.

The seat belt measure passed 49-4 on Thursday. It now moves to the House, which in recent years has thrown up a roadblock.

Former House Speaker Tom Murphy - himself a pickup driver - was a vocal opponent who refused to buckle up.

The bill's sponsor, state Sen. Don Thomas, a family physician for almost five decades, says he's seen the carnage from pickup accidents.

"There is a time to buckle up and that time is every time you get in your vehicle, regardless of what type of vehicle it is," the Republican from Dalton said.

The change has faced opposition from rural lawmakers who see it as an unnecessary intrusion and a burden for farmers who use pickups to haul hay and other supplies as part of their work.

The bill that passed on Thursday carves out an exception for those who are using a pickup "in connection with agricultural pursuits."

The federal government has long tied highway money to seat belt laws. Changing the law would win Georgia some $4 million in highway funds at a time when the state is struggling with a huge budget deficit. Supporters are hoping that budget crunch will give the bill added momentum this year.

The state could use the money on road safety programs and save an estimated $62 million each year in accident-related expenses such as medical costs, backers of the bill argue.

The National Highway Safety Administration and the Georgia Department of Transportation estimate changing the law would save 21 lives and prevent 300 injuries each year.

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My_2nd 02/12/09 - 03:14 pm
so does that mean the house

so does that mean the house still must approve it?

patriciathomas 02/12/09 - 05:58 pm
If the doctor has seen the

If the doctor has seen the carnage done by a pickup, why not ban the pickup?

aktr1 02/12/09 - 07:44 pm
lol ban the pickup why not

lol ban the pickup why not all these tiny cars that get mangled in any serious accident

FallingLeaves 02/12/09 - 08:35 pm
When I was a child in Germany

When I was a child in Germany in the 60's, school buses had restraints and emergency cords. Are we that far behind still? I have yet to see any kind of restraints in school buses and it's nearly 50 years later!

LBenedict 02/12/09 - 10:51 pm
Yes, the House must approve

Yes, the House must approve it. It passed the Senate in 2007 and to this day has gone nowhere fast in the House

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