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Seat belt bill goes to Senate for vote
Measure would allow courts to consider use in cases
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The state Senate Judiciary Committee has approved a bill authored by Sen. Lee Hawkins, R- Gainesville, that permits the admissibility of seat belt use in a legal proceeding.

The proposal adds seat belt use to a list of contributing factors that can be heard by a judge or jury.

State Sen. Seth Harp, R-Midland, offered an amendment that includes trucks in the bill. The amendment was approved, and the bill now goes to the full Senate for action.

Hawkins, who appeared before the committee, said the bill could have an additional result.

"This was a bill that would allow juries to hear the fact that someone was not wearing a seat belt," said Hawkins, a Gainesville dentist by trade.

"I hope that down the road it would have an effect on people who are not wearing seat belts, and hopefully we can increase seat belt use."

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.

The bill also was endorsed by the Georgia Chamber of Commerce.

"Despite all the efforts by law enforcement to encourage seat belt use by ticketing and fining drivers who ignore this law, when a claim reaches the courtroom, judges and juries are required to ignore this law and the potential contribution to injuries and medical costs," the business organization said in a statement.

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