The constitutional amendment, Amendment 2, will appear on the Nov. 2 ballot.
Georgia needs at least 30 trauma care centers to care for its population, but only has 16, said Dr. Dennis Ashley, chairman of the Georgia Trauma Care Network Commission.
As a result, the Peach State has a 20 percent higher rate of death from trauma than the national average, Ashley said, adding that 400 to 700 people die every year in Georgia from trauma injuries.
The $10 car fee, which would generate about $80 million a year, would help expand the 16 trauma centers to 30. The goal is to have every Georgian within 50 miles of a trauma center, he said.
State Rep. Sharon Cooper (R-east Cobb) calls it an insurance policy.
"I think that the public thinks that medical treatment is available all over this state when they need it, and that's not true," Cooper said. "If you leave Macon and drive to Florida, you better be really, really careful."
A trauma center is more than just a hospital with an emergency room. It has the medical staff and life-saving equipment available to immediately care for severely injured patients. A Level 1 trauma center is the most comprehensive and offers 24-hour trauma care. Georgia has four Level 1 centers in Atlanta, Augusta, Macon and Savannah.
Ashley spoke of the "golden hour," a brief window of time in which to administer medical care after a trauma has occurred.
"Our best chance of saving your life is if we can get you within the first hour," he said.
That window shrinks to 30 minutes for children.
"I get people from two hours away from me, and if you look at some of north Georgia and some of South Central Georgia on the map, there's just huge gaps there where people are 75 to 80 miles away from a trauma center," said Ashley, who is also chief of Trauma Services for the Medical Center of Central Georgia in Macon.
Ashley challenged the argument that a statewide trauma network isn't needed for citizens who already live near a trauma center.
"The problem with that theory is that you travel to work or a meeting or vacation or visit family on the weekends, and you're very quickly away from the luxury of a trauma center," he said.
In April, Cobb's five state senators approved the senate resolution to place the constitutional amendment on the November ballot. Most of Cobb's 14 state representatives approved it as well, with the exceptions of Matt Dollar (R-east Cobb), Rob Teilhet (D-Smyrna) and Rick Golick (R-Smyrna). Rep. Earl Ehrhart (R-Powder Springs) is not recorded as voting.
Dollar said the Legislature had raised enough fees.
"Given that the Legislature had already taken action to raise many user fees, I did not feel raising the car fee at this time was appropriate," he said.
But Cooper said it's critical the amendment passes.
"It's the cheapest insurance policy you will ever get," she said. "It's getting people to the right kind of emergency care in the shortest time possible - and knowing when they get there, the hospital is ready to take them."