New changes in Mississippi laws affect drivers, starting Saturday

Amended driving laws take effect Saturday, and drivers should pay attention.

Mississippi’s seat belt laws now require every person in a vehicle to be restrained. Previously, only front-seat passengers and children under a certain weight and height has to be buckled up.

Now, everyone inside a vehicle must wear a seat belt, and it’s the driver who gets a $25 ticket for each person unrestrained.

The language of the law makes it clear that drivers can also be charged for each person who rides in the cargo area of a pickup truck, Mississippi Highway Patrol Capt. Johnny Poulos said.

Poulos said he fielded numbers calls Friday from people who were confused about what they were hearing about the changes and the issue of passengers in truck beds.

People are sometimes ejected from inside a vehicle. Imagine riding in the back of a pickup truck that flips.

Lt. Johnny Poulos, Mississippi Highway Patrol spokesman

“The calls came from citizens and from members of the Legislature as well,” Poulos said.

People for several generations have ridden in the back of pickups in Mississippi, and especially in rural areas.

The amended law is at an officer’s discretion, Poulos said.

“But just think about it,” he said. “People are sometimes ejected from inside a vehicle. Imagine riding in the back of a pickup truck that flips.”

To the left

The state’s move-over law also has also been tweaked. The law already requires motorists to change lanes when possible when law enforcement or emergency vehicles are on the side of a road.

The amended law requires drivers to move over when possible for rural mail carriers, whose vehicles “should have a combination of white flashing strobe or amber and red lights, state Department of Public Safety Spokesman Warren Strain said in an email.

Poulos said state troopers will hold safety checkpoints during the holiday weekend and will be educating the public on the amended laws.

State troopers’ Fourth of July weekend traffic safety campaign is called “In the Click.”

An increased number of state troopers will be on state and federal highways during the campaign, which started at 7 p.m. Friday and ends at midnight Tuesday.

Robin Fitzgerald: 228-896-2307, @robincrimenews

New laws

Dozens of new laws are taking effect Saturday. Among them:

  • BLUE LIVES: People who commit crimes in Mississippi against law enforcement officers, firefighters and emergency workers will face doubled penalties under House Bill 645 . The law expands the state hate crimes law, which already enhances penalties for crimes committed because of a victim’s race, religion, national origin or gender.
  • DIVORCE: A person will have grounds for divorce after being the victim of a single act of domestic violence, under Senate Bill 2680 . It allows just one witness to establish abuse, and also allows for emotional and financial abuse to count as grounds for divorce. The broadly written bill also clarifies state law to show that abused and neglected children can be placed with other relatives.
  • SCHOOL BULLYING: Each school district will be required to set policies to try to prevent bullying and suicide, under House Bill 263.
  • BEER: The state will allow small breweries to sell limited quantities of beer directly to customers on site. House Bill 1322 allows brewers to sell an amount equal to two cases of beer to a customer each day.
  • OPIOIDS: Pharmacists with specific training can distribute certain drugs, without a prescription, to head off an overdose of pain medications, under House Bill 996 , the Emergency Response and Overdose Prevention Act.”

Associated Press