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Perdue signs 'super speeder' bill

By Valerie Baldowski

vbaldowski@henryherald.com

Gov. Sonny Perdue on Tuesday signed into law so-called "super speeder" legislation, House Bill 160, which increases the fines charged for dangerous driving.

Standing with Perdue during the bill-signing ceremony, held at the Scottish Rite campus of Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, was Andre 3000, an actor and musician with the Atlanta-based musical group OutKast.

In March Andre 3000, whose real name is Andre Benjamin, was ticketed in Henry County for excessive speeding.

Benjamin joined Perdue for a tour of the hospital's trauma center, and to support efforts to reduce dangerous driving behaviors, the governor's office said in a statement.

According to the governor's office, H.B. 160 was introduced by Rep. Jim Cole (R-Forsyth) to help reduce traumatic automobile crashes and provide funds for trauma care throughout the state.

"H.B. 160 accomplishes two things," said Perdue spokesman Chris Schrimpf. "First, it sends the message that speeding is dangerous, and will not be tolerated in Georgia. Second, it makes sure that those who are causing traumatic accidents are helping to pay for our trauma network."

Schrimpf said 1,648 deaths in 2007 were attributed to auto crashes, and 20 percent of those fatalities were speeding related. More than 65 percent of drivers involved in fatal accidents in Georgia have poor driving histories with prior violations, continued Schrimpf.

The legislation adds an additional $200 fine for driving over 85 mph in Georgia, and for driving 75 mph or faster on a two-lane road.

"This is a simple, straightforward attempt to slow high-speed drivers, and reduce high-speed crashes and trauma injuries," Perdue said in a statement. "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."

Children's Healthcare trauma centers have treated a number of children who were involved in speed-related accidents, said Linda Cole, vice-president of Trauma and Emergency Services for Children's Healthcare.

In 2008, said Cole, 67 auto-accident-related trauma patients were treated at Scottish Rite, and 92 were treated at the hospital's Egleston campus.

Of those, she said, eight were fatalities.

Cole said she hopes the signing of H.B. 160, which takes effect in July, will cut down on those numbers. "That is certainly the intent," she said.

She said she is keeping track of past injury statistics reported from hospital trauma centers throughout the state, and then will compare them to future statistics to determine the effectiveness of the legislation.

"We can come back then and see what impact this bill has had on injuries and fatalities from vehicle crashes," said Cole.

Cole said she wholeheartedly endorsed the bill's intent to save lives.

"As a person who has worked in the field of trauma, I think anything that decreases fatal or near-fatal crashes is a positive thing, " she added.

Henry County Police Department Capt. Jason Bolton said almost half of the accidents in the county resulting in serious injury are due, in part, to speeding.

Easing up on the accelerator would make a positive difference, Bolton continued. "I'm certain it would help tremendously," he said.

Although driving slower might seem inconvenient, Locust Grove Police Chief Jesse Patton said he reminds his officers that slower speeds can prevent accidents.

"I tell them to slow down, because if they don't get there, they're not helping anybody," said Patton.