By Frank James
For decades, pickup drivers in Georgia didn't have to wear seatbelts. I know; it sounds crazy but it's true.
Anyway, they had an exemption from the state's seatbelt laws because some rural lawmakers holding key positions thwarted efforts to force a change.
But those days are over. Georgia is entering the 20th century on the seatbelts-in-pickups issue. Georgia's legislature on Tuesday finally passed a bill which Gov. Sonny Perdue has said he will sign to end the exemption.
After a years-old fight that divided rural and urban lawmakers, the General Assembly has decided Georgia should join the rest of the nation in requiring adults in pickup trucks to use seat belts.
By a vote of 132-29, the House passed legislation Tuesday that would require pickup truck drivers to abide by the same seat belt requirements that have applied to car drivers in Georgia since 1988.
"The fact that seat belts save lives is undisputed, and our constituents want us to pass this bill," Rep. Mickey Channell (R-Greensboro) said before the vote.
For years, the Senate pushed legislation to remove the seat belt exemption for pickup trucks, only to see the change blocked by rural lawmakers who controlled the Georgia House. Tom Murphy made clear when he was House speaker that he didn't believe seat belts should be mandatory, and his successor, Glenn Richardson, took the same position. Both kept seat belt bills from reaching the House floor for a vote.
Another AJC story reports:
House members broke into applause after the vote.