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ViewPoint: Seatbelt law needed

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  March 8, 2007

It may or may not surprise you that we have received more negative feedback on this subject than any other editorial. Seat belts in pick-up trucks. Of 333 pickup truck occupants killed in Georgia in 2005, at least 233 were not wearing seat belts. Over 70%  While traffic fatalities in Georgia rose by 8 percent between 2003 and 2005, deaths in pickups jumped by 32 percent.

Overall, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that requiring seat-belt use in trucks would reduce the risk of fatal injury by 60 percent, saving at least 21 lives and preventing 300 serious injuries a year. Less important but still significant, it predicts that extending seat-belt mandates to pickup trucks would save Georgia taxpayers $62 million a year in lost productivity, medical and legal costs.

Convinced by such numbers, the Georgia Senate last week voted 45-10 to end,  Georgia's seat-belt exemption for trucks. Unfortunately, the prospects for passage of Senate Bill 86 are dim in the House, where Speaker Glenn Richardson has called mandatory seat belts an intrusion on freedoms.

It's hard to fathom Richardson's argument, considering that Georgia law has long required seat belts in cars and civil libertarians aren't marching on the state House in protest. Safety belt use in Georgia is now the highest in the Southeast, at 90 percent. And because more Georgia drivers buckle up in their cars, fewer of them die in car accidents.

Georgia and Indiana are the only two states that allow the seat-belt exemption for adults in pickups. If Georgia gets rid of the exception, the state likely would be eligible for an allocation of over $20 million in federal funds.

Legislators who oppose seat belts in pickups also complain that the requirement would inconvenience farmers, but the bill exempts vehicles used for off-road agricultural purposes. it's time Georgia joins the rest of their country.