New Mississippi laws aimed at keeping drivers and their passengers safe

Published 9:11 am Wednesday, July 5, 2017

On its face, it should be common sense, but human nature being what it is, the Legislature passed new laws to remind us.

Saturday, three new traffic laws went into effect in the state. One, requiring all people in a car to wear seatbelts; another prohibiting people from riding in the back of pickups; and a third prohibiting people from driving in the left-hand lane of a four-lane highway unless they are passing someone or preparing to make a left turn.

Seatbelts have been in cars for more than 40 years, and traffic safety organizations and law enforcement agencies have been reminding people to buckle up every time they get in their cars to drive. The reason? Seatbelts, as has been proven over the years, save lives. And while the state’s law for years has mandated that drivers belt up before traveling, it’s been up to the passengers whether they would buckle or not — and many times the result of that decision has been deadly.

“The problem we were having was, other people were wearing seatbelts inside the vehicle and some people were not and during crashes, the people that were not restrained, bodies were thrown into the people that were seat-belted. It was still causing deaths or serious injuries,” Mississippi Highway Patrol public information officer Cpl. Eric Henry said. “We’re pretty much hoping with this law, we can have a better chance of saving lives.”

The same thing goes for riding in the back of a pickup. The law requires anybody in a moving vehicle to be restrained, Henry said, and anyone riding in the back of a pick-up is not buckled up inside the vehicle.

And because the driver is responsible for the passengers in their vehicle, they are liable for the unbuckled passengers and could face a $25 ticket plus local fees.

The prohibition of driving in the left-hand lane, Henry said, is aimed at stopping road rage caused by people becoming frustrated because someone driving in the left lane is blocking traffic.

When we’re young, we’re taught “the rules of the road” about keeping ourselves and our passengers safe and being responsible drivers.

It’s common sense, and the Legislature should not have had to pass a law to force us to do what we should already know.

It’s unfortunate they had to do it.