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Seatbelts for small trucks is positive move

POSTED: March 22, 2007 5:12 a.m.
Pickups make you think of back roads, farming and country, especially Southern country. So, in recent years, when the Georgia lawmakers rightly imposed seatbelt requirements on most passenger vehicles they elected to exclude pickups from those requirements.
The fact is, however, many pickups never drive a dirt road, the small trucks actually serve the same purpose as passenger vehicles and they are no safer than those other vehicles.
Lawmakers have a chance to correct thatt this year and there is a growing campaign to bring pickups under Georgia’s safety belt law under Senate Bill 86.
The proposal, brought up by Sen. Don Thomas (R-Dalton) and cosponsored by several other lawmakers, passed the Senate Thursday, 45-10, and now goes into the House. SB 86 still exempts motorcycles and vehicles equipped and used primarily off road for farming. But it specifically says pickups, vans and sports utility vehicles designed to carry 10 passengers or fewer are passenger vehicles and thus their drivers and passengers should be required to wear seatbelts.
Lawmakers already acknowledged pickups were dangerous. The current law requires anyone, 18 or younger, riding in a pickup to wear a seatbelt or be in a safety seat.
In its campaign in support of the bill, the American Automotive Association says Georgians overwhelmingly favor this change, citing a recent survey that showed more than 90 percent of the public supports including pickups in the safety belt law.
AAA also says the truck exemption sends a deadly message from the state that buckling up is not important in these popular vehicles. The bill is needed — especially when you consider pickups are especially attractive to teenage boys inexperienced in driving and eager to test the limits of their environment.
And safety is not the only reason the state should approve SB 86. In addition to saving lives and preventing serious injuries, requiring occupants of pickups to buckle up will qualify the state for a federal incentive of $20.7 million in cash for highway projects withheld because of the state hasn’t complied with federal guidelines for seatbelts.
There could also be savings – AAA estimates $25 million in taxpayer-funded Medicaid costs during the next 10 years – by having fewer serious injuries on our roads.
We’re all for it and even encourage lawmakers to look further, possibly requiring seatbelts in school buses, as well as other large mass transportation vehicles.
 

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