Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Governor Signs Bill to Help Fund Trauma Care, Discourage Dangerous Driving

Bill raises fines for excessive speeding, other unsafe driving behaviors

Governor Sonny Perdue today signed into law House Bill 160, which raises fines for dangerous driving behaviors to help fund the state’s trauma centers. The legislation was introduced by Rep. Jim Cole and will help reduce traumatic automobile crashes and provide funds for trauma care in the state.

“This is a simple, straightforward attempt to slow high-speed drivers and reduce high-speed crashes and trauma injuries,” Governor Perdue said. “I believe we can not only help fund trauma care through increased fines, but we can also reduce the heavy burden on our state’s emergency rooms.”

AndrĂ© Benjamin of the Atlanta-based musical group OutKast joined Governor Perdue at today’s bill signing ceremony at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta’s Scottish Rite campus. The musician, clothing designer, television/film producer and actor was recently ticketed for excessive speeding, and joined the Governor today for a tour of the trauma center at Children’s at Scottish Rite and to support efforts to reduce dangerous driving behaviors. Benjamin has a heightened awareness of the perils of excessive speeding and is very pleased to see corrective measures in place. Children’s managed more than 170,000 emergency department visits in 2008, making it a critical link in Georgia’s trauma network.

Each year, traffic crashes on Georgia’s roadways cause more than 1,600 fatalities, about a quarter of them caused by excessive speeds. This legislation will generate approximately $23 million in Fiscal Year 2010, which Governor Perdue recommended be spent to improve the state’s trauma care network. This is the second infusion of state funds by Governor Perdue into the trauma network. In the Amended 08 budget, the Governor recommended $53 million for the state’s first-ever investment into improving trauma care in Georgia. The General Assembly eventually appropriated an additional $5 million for a total of $58 million in the Amended 08 budget.

“This bill sends a strong message that Georgia is serious about slowing people down to make our highways and byways safer for our citizens, visitors and future generations of drivers. I was honored to carry this bill for Governor Perdue and his team,” said Rep. Cole.

The legislation adds an additional $200 fine for driving over 85 mph anywhere in the state and for driving 75 mph or more on a two lane road. Super Speeders will also increase driver’s license reinstatement fees for drivers committing a second and third offense for violations that result in a suspended license and for other negligent behaviors.

Senator Bill Heath, the Governor’s Senior Administration Floor Leader, carried HB 160 in the Senate.

“This legislation will slow down reckless drivers and prevent life-threatening crashes, while providing additional funding for trauma care,” said Sen. Heath. “Simply put, this bill saves lives.”

“For too long, too many Georgia drivers have treated the route marker signs along I-75 and I-85 like they were minimum speed limit postings,” said Bob Dallas, Director of the Governor's Office of Highway Safety. “Now when the numbers 75 and 85 roll-up on a speedometer it should make those drivers think about how higher speeds will result in even higher fines. The goal of this law is simple: Speed kills and speed limits are there for a reason. Slowing down will save lives wherever we drive in Georgia.”

Governor Perdue today also signed Senate Bill 201, which gives more flexibility in the use of funds raised by a check-off option on yearly income tax forms. The bill expands the types of cancer research to which tax-deductible funds can be donated, deleting specific references to prostate, breast and ovarian cancer. This will allow research on all types of cancers to be funded through the donations made by Georgians on their annual tax forms. With the signing of this bill into law, Children’s will be able to compete for grants to conduct pediatric brain cancer research.

Representatives of the Georgia Cancer Coalition joined the Governor today for the bill signing. A total of $2.5 million has been donated since the check-off program began. The funds are matched by the receiving institution and often used for pilot studies, which are used to attract larger NIH grants. Thus far, this investment has resulted in $14 million in cancer research grants in Georgia. The bill was sponsored by Sen. Don Balfour and carried in the House by Rep. Fran Millar.
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