Former Georgia Speaker of the House Tom Murphy was an opponent of requiring seatbelt use. He said it was inconvenient for farmers who may spend a lot of time getting in and out of their truck . I always thought that was a lazy man’s excuse.
An article in the Atlanta Journal Constitution reports that 90 percent of registered voters recently surveyed support legislation requiring all occupants in a vehicle to be buckled up. For years state legislators have puttered towards stronger laws designed to protect drivers and passengers This year promises to finish the work of reducing injuries and fatalities in car crashes here, with a state Senate committee poised to recommend that all back seat passengers be required to buckle up.
Reams of data have documented the benefits of seat belts and car seats/boosters. Reporter David Wickert writes that in 2018, 803 back seat passengers ages eight years old and up died in car crashes. The Governors Highway Safety Association reports that half of those fatalities would have been prevented. Think about that. Over 400 people would have survived if they had used a seat belt. Wickert adds that in 2015 the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimated that $10Billion could have been saved due to medical expenses, lost work hours, and additional injury-related expenses. I’ll venture a guess those costs would be higher now.
I know to the day when many of my close family members became seat belt users: June 21, 1986. That’s the day seat belts saved my life and my husband’s life.
I was driving the last few miles to an extended family vacation on Tybee Island when a careless driver crossed a grass median and three lanes of traffic, hitting us head on. Instead of greeting us at the beach house, my father-in-law searched the ER at Savannah Memorial Hospital, following a baby’s screams, to find my seven month old daughter McKinsey, unscathed, save for a small scratch from flying glass and some bruises where the car seat straps had kept her safely in her car seat during the impact. My husband David had a pretty bad cut on his knee. I don’t know if the cuts on his forehead required stitches or not.
What I do know is that doctors told my parents, when they arrived from North Carolina, that a three-point inertia seat belt had saved their daughter’s life. Air bags weren’t options in cars in 1986, it was the seat belt in the Honda Accord that saved me. Well, that, plus the fact that I used it. Call me a positive role model.
Driving a car requires a driver’s license. Owning a car requires carrying insurance. Motorcyclists have to wear a helmet in our state.
Georgia legislators are not known for being early adopters of legislation that set trends for improved health and safety outcomes. Passing a law requiring back seat passengers to buckle up, and putting teeth into that law by allowing officers to stop a vehicle if back seat riders aren’t wearing a seat belt, wouldn’t make Georgia the first state to do. It would put us among 19 other states and the District of Columbia who have decided that saving lives and reducing injuries are worth any pushback from the the 10 percent who may complain.