Perdue signs bill closing seatbelt loophole

ATLANTA – Gov. Sonny Perdue today signed into law a bill to close a loophole and require both the driver and passenger of a pickup truck to buckle up.

“Pick-ups have changed over the years, and are often used to get back and forth to work on an everyday basis. Today, they are out on our expressways and bypasses, as well as farms,” Perdue said in a news release. “We all recognize that seatbelts save lives. With this legislation we look to continuing to build a ‘Safer Georgia’ for the next generation.”

The law redefines “passenger vehicle” to include pickup trucks. The state Senate has previously passed similar legislation, but it stalled in the state House.

“This long-overdue legislation is a victory for all Georgians. We have fought hard for years to make sure that everyone driving on Georgia roads is safely buckled-up.” Sen. Don Thomas, R-Dalton, said in a news release. “Thank you to the governor and all in the legislature who worked diligently to ensure this life-saving measure becomes law.”

Officials say more than 2/3 of pickup truck deaths can be attributed to people not wearing seat belts, and by closing the loophole, Georgia residents will likely pay less to cover the medical costs of people injured in such crashes. In addition, the state could also see additional federal incentive grants from the Traffic Safety Institute, proponents say; critics disagree.

Off-road and pickup trucks involved in agricultural operations are exempt from the new measure.

Meanwhile, the fate of another driving-related bill remains unclear.

The state legislature has approved legislation that prohibits texting while. Under SB 360, anyone convicted of texting while driving would face of up to $150, but Perdue hasn’t said whether he will sign the measures into law.

“I’ve got some concerns over the enforceability of that,” Perdue told WXIA-TV.

“If I get my e-mails and I pick up a smart-phone and read my e-mails, I’m violating the law,” the television station quoted the governor as saying. “But if I print out my e-mails and I have a sheet of paper driving [and look at it], then I haven’t violated the law.”

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