Tens of thousands of Georgians live with lifelong disabilities caused by brain and spinal cord injury. As medical technology, safety and trauma care have improved more people survive traumatic injury, but many then face a lifetime of physical, behavioral and cognitive impairments requiring ongoing support services. On any given day in communities all across Georgia, survivors of brain and spinal cord injury and their caregivers gather together in support groups to share the struggles they face living with these lifelong impairments. Astoundingly, there are over 75,800 newly injured Georgians each year, and close to 50 percent of those injuries are caused by motor vehicle crashes. Many times those crashes are not caused by error of their own, but by other reckless drivers.
With early voting underway, Georgia voters have an opportunity to extend a helping hand to victims of traumatic brain and spinal cord injury who are left to deal with the aftermath of reckless acts.
As proposed on the November ballot, Amendment B would allow the Georgia Constitution to be amended to allow a surcharge to be applied to reckless driving fines that would provide much-needed grant monies for survivors left to cope with traumatic brain and spinal cord injuries.
Those funds would be directed to Georgia's Brain and Spinal Injury Trust Fund, who will judiciously consider applications from qualified applicants and award funds to those who need it most.
Since its creation in 1998, the Trust Fund has granted over $20 million to eligible applicants that have resulted in over 4,600 grant awards to Georgians in need. To-date Trust Fund revenues have only been generated from a surcharge on DUI fines, but as more and more DUI offenders plead down to reckless driving charges, the funds have significantly waned through the years. Over the last five years Trust Fund revenues have dropped more than 25 percent, which has caused a tragic waitlist for applicants.
DUI plea-bargaining has taken vital funds away from Georgians who need care and rehabilitative services. Amendment B will allow us to fold reckless driving fines into the mix, which will in turn help rebuild the funds that provide much-needed resources to Georgians with brain and spinal cord injuries.
It's important to realize that this is not a tax on law-abiding citizens.
This fee is only charged to reckless driving offenders. This is one easy way we can ensure that reckless drivers share the cost of their reckless actions and give back to those whose lives will never be the same.
Please go to the polls and vote YES for Amendment B. Share this information with your family, colleagues and friends across Georgia.
Post a note of support on your social media pages. Anything you can do to help educate others about the important need to pass Amendment B makes a big difference to so many.
To learn more about the work of the Brain & Spinal Injury Trust Fund, visit www.gatrustfund.org. For a flier and Frequently Asked Questions on Amendment B, visit www.braininjurygeorgia.org. On Facebook, visit Georgia Votes Yes for Amendment B.
Paige Havens is the director of planning and development for the Brain Injury Association of Georgia, which is a nonprofit organization serving individuals with brain injuries and their families, friends and service providers.