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Lawmaker wants seat belt use admissible in court cases
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A state Senate committee is scheduled to consider a bill today that would permit the admissibility of seat belt use in a legal proceeding.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Lee Hawkins, R-Gainesville, would change the current state statute which says the evidence of seat belt use is not admissible into a legal proceeding resulting from a crash.

"If a person is caught driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, that’s admissible," Hawkins said. "If they’re not wearing a seat belt, that’s not."

The proposal would prohibit insurance companies from canceling the coverage or raising the rates of customers who fail to wear a seat belt.

Hawkins said he introduced the legislation at the request of the Association County Commissioners of Georgia.

"If a person hits a pothole in the road and is thrown against the steering wheel because they’re not wearing a seat belt, they should have some responsibility," he said.

The bill has been endorsed by the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, the state’s largest business organization.

"Simply allowing for the admissibility of seat belt use evidence does nothing to relieve a defendant of the ultimate responsibility for a vehicle accident; it simply allows a judge or jury to consider whether that evidence contributed to injuries or costs and make a decision that considers all the facts," the chamber said in a statement released Wednesday.

Hawkins said of the 12 traffic-related deaths in Hall County last year, 11 were not wearing seat belts. He believes the bill also would encourage seat belt use.

The bill is scheduled to be heard at a 3 p.m. meeting of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Other area co-sponsors of the bill include Sen. Jim Butterworth, R-Clarkesville, and Sen. Jack Murphy, R-Cumming.

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