Should seatbelts be required for backseat riders in Georgia?
ALBANY, Ga. (WALB) - 20-year-old Georgia football player Devin Willock was not wearing a seatbelt at the time of a crash that took his life, according to law enforcement.
Willock was ejected and died of his injuries on the scene of the crash. Victoria Bowles, also in the back seat, was not wearing a seatbelt but was not ejected. She survived the crash with major injuries.
But should seatbelts be required for backseat passengers in Georgia?
Debra Storm is a certified driving instructor. She believes backseat passengers should be required by law to wear seat belts.
“Nobody is as safe in the car front seat or backseat if they are not wearing their seatbelts,” Storm said.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA) estimates 15,000 lives in the United States were saved in 2019, and seatbelts reduce the risk of death by nearly 50%.
Seatbelt laws are primary laws in Georgia. That means law enforcement can pull you over for simply not wearing one.
“There doesn’t have to be any other reason for an officer to pull someone over. If they are not wearing their seatbelts they can be pulled over,” Storm said.
Penalties in Georgia seem to be fairly light. The maximum fine for a front-seat passenger over 18 is $15. It is $25 if 8 and over. For an unrestrained child under 8, the first offense is $50.
“Seatbelt laws are made for the safety of the driver and the passengers,” Storm said.
The NHTSA said Georgia’s seat belt use is 94.8%. Georgia is the fifth highest state in seat belt usage.
Storm teaches lessons about wearing seatbelts to teens who may feel pressured to not wear them or to tell their friends they should be wearing them. She also hears about one common excuse.
“A lot of people say, ‘I am only going so far. I’m only going down to the end of the street. I’m only going to short distance.’ Always always always (wear a seatbelt),” Storm said.
Almost as important, Storm said a seatbelt needs to be secured correctly.
“It prevents fatal damage, but it can cause bruising if it’s not worn correctly. It’s flat belt over the hips and shoulder belt snug across the chest,” Storm said.
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