In February, we had expressed hope on this blog that a bill to make seatbelt use mandatory for pickup truck drivers would be passed by the House. Unfortunately, that hasn’t happened. For the third consecutive year, the House has rejected the measurethat would prevent several accident related deaths every year, with the House Consumer Affairs Subcommittee voting 4-3 against the bill.
With this, Georgia continues to remain the only state in the country that exempts pickup truck drivers from buckling up.This has meant that the seat belt use rate for pickup drivers in Georgia has remained at around 79 percent, much lower than it is for other passenger vehicles. Pickup trucks are used extensively in rural Georgia, and the seat belt exemption has also contributed to higher fatality rates in rural areas than urban centers.Close to 57 percent of all road traffic fatalities in the state occur on rural roads.In fact, the fatality rate in rural areas is twice that in urban areas, and pickup truck drivers form a large percentage of these fatalities.Even worse, of these pickup truck fatalities, more than 67 percent were not wearing seat belts at the time of the crash.Experts estimate that at least 26 lives could be saved in Georgia every year, and more than 400 injuries could be prevented if pickup truck drivers too were covered under seat belt laws.
Even in the face of such data, Georgia has delayed making seat belts mandatory for pickup drivers above the age of 18.The bill’s supporters, including Georgia personal injury lawyers have been vocal in their support for such a measure, but these voices have gone unheard by the House. There has been widespread support of seat belt laws for pick up truck drivers. In fact, surveys have shown that more than 88 percent of the population of the state supports making seat belt use mandatory on pickup trucks.In fact, the support for such a bill is strong even in rural areas, with truck drivers voicing support for such laws. Yet, the state has failed to act.
Georgia has also lost out on federal funds because of this stubborn refusal to bring pickup drivers under seat belt laws. Federal funds are available to states that have mandatory buckling up laws for all motorists and Georgia’s refusal to enact such laws has meant that we have lost out on funds that would have been very welcome during a budget deficit.
This is not the end of the road for the bill, of course. Supporters of the bill have already said that they will re-introduce the measure another day.