Change to seat belt law goes into effect, passing law stays the same
Published 7:00 am Saturday, July 1, 2017
A new law that went in effect this morning will affect occupants of vehicles in Mississippi.
Due to the passage of Senate Bill 2724, also known as Harlie’s Law, all occupants of a vehicle are now required to wear a seat belt. This includes passengers in the rear of the vehicle. Prior to passage of the law, drivers were only ticketed for unbuckled passengers in the front of the vehicle. Children have always been required to be buckled, no matter where they were sitting in the vehicle.
Now, drivers will be ticketed for any passenger, adult or child, not buckled up no matter where they sit in the vehicle.
“The law used to be that just the driver and front seat passenger had to wear their seat belts, but as of Saturday that’s going to change,” Mississippi Highway Patrol Troop K Public Information Officer Chase Elkins said. “Now everyone in the motor vehicle must be properly wearing a seat belt, regardless of where they are seated.”
According to the bill, the only people exempt from this law are occupants of a bus, drivers of farm equipment, postal carriers and citizens with a doctor-documented condition precluding them from wearing a seatbelt. Operators of motorcycles, mopeds and all-terrain vehicles are also still exempt, the bill states.
The fine for each violation is $25, will now be charged to the driver and offending passengers as a result of this bill, it states.
In association with the seatbelt law, people riding in the bed of a pickup truck could also be fined for not wearing a seatbelt, said Director of Public Affairs for the Mississippi Highway Patrol Johnny Poulos. While the bill does not specifically state passengers in the bed of a pickup truck are in violation, the new law’s wording could leave it up to the officer’s discretion whether to fine the unrestrained occupants and the driver of the pickup.
Poulos said he hopes everyone will abide by the law because unrestrained passengers have a higher chance of death during an accident.
“I have worked crashes where people were ejected from the back of a pickup truck,” Poulos said. “All we’re saying is that law could apply to passengers riding in the cargo area of a pickup truck.”
A second law expected to take effect Saturday involving the improper usage of the left lane as reported by other news agencies, actually failed in committee, Poulos said.
He said earlier this year, Legislators did convene in an attempt to put more teeth into a current law that mandates the only time a driver should be in the left lane is to overtake a vehicle in the right lane. However, while the attempt to put teeth into he current law passed the House, it died in committee, Poulos said.
One change was made to the move over law. Poulos said now all traffic should move over for postal carriers running their routes.