Georgia seat belt laws require everyone over the age of 18 to wear a safety belt when driving or riding in the front seat of a passenger vehicle. Failure to buckle up results in a $15 fine. The driver is also responsible for ensuring that everyone aged 8 – 17 is wearing a seat belt, regardless of whether they are in the front or back seats. If a child is not wearing a safety belt, the penalty is a $25 fine. Children under the age of 8 are required to be in an age/weight appropriate child restraint or booster seat. The failure to belt a child under the age of 8 is a $50 fine.
Georgia is a primary enforcement state, meaning that police officers are authorized to pull drivers over solely to issue a seat belt ticket.
Up until 2016, Georgia law exempted pickup trucks from the seat belt requirement. The legislature decided not to include pickup trucks in the definition of “passenger vehicle” because of a fear that the law would inconvenience farmers. Georgia was the only state in the nation that exempted safety belt use in pickup trucks until new seat belt laws were enacted in the summer of 2016.
The Importance of Pickup Truck Seat Belt Use
The revision to O.C.G.A. §40-8-76.1 includes pickup trucks in the definition of "passenger vehicles" that must adhere to the seat belt laws. After years of pickup truck passengers being exempt from the seat belt laws, all passengers of a pickup truck including the driver must wear a seat belt or proper restraint for their age.
Several surveys have shown that safety belt use is especially low in rural areas and among pickup truck drivers. The Georgia Department of Health's Crash Outcome Data Evaluation System (CODES) 2008 report revealed pickup truck occupants use safety belts about 74% of the time, compared to 93% usage for car occupants. The gap in safety belt usage results in a higher fatality rate for pickup drivers involved in accidents. Unrestrained pickup truck occupants are 44 times more likely to be killed than restrained occupants. Even if a crash does not result in a fatality, unrestrained pickup passengers are four times more likely to be admitted to the hospital with serious injuries instead of a simple emergency room visit and discharge.
The problem is two-fold for pickup truck drivers. Not only is the failure to buckle up unsafe, but the rural, wooded areas that pickup trucks are most often driven on are the most frequent crash sites in the Southeast, according to Karen Dixon of Georgia Tech. Dixon headed a regional study funded by the Federal Highway Administration and found that on rural roads, 48.6% of the regions fatal crashes involved unbelted pickup drivers.
New Seat Belt Laws Will Save Lives and Money
One of the reasons Georgia has held off on enacting seat belt laws for pickup trucks is the impact it may have on agricultural activity. In a press release regarding the new laws, the Georgia Governor's Office of Highway Safety (GOHS) reassured farmers that the laws would have zero impact on agricultural activities.
In support of the law change, the GOHS reported the rural versus urban seat belt use statistics. Rural vehicular accident death rates were double that of urban areas, and studies cited prove seat belt use reduces the risk of fatal injury to front-seat pickup truck passengers by 60 percent (80 percent for rollover crashes).
Georgia laws are there for your protection. It is no secret that seat belts save lives, so there should be no excuse for not wearing your safety belt. The Law Office of Jason R. Schultz, PC helps injured Georgia residents in urban and rural areas seek damages for injuries sustained in a vehicle crash. Call 404-474-0804 for more information.