Several new state laws that take effect
this weekend will impact the everyday lives of Mississippians.
One requires motorists to move over at least one lane, where
possible, to make room for emergency vehicles, state troopers or
tow trucks that are responding to accidents or breakdowns.
Another law allows people to put security freezes on their
consumer records to try to combat identity theft.
Yet another will require elementary and secondary students work
up a sweat at school to try to combat childhood obesity.
They are among the dozens of bills that legislators passed, and
Gov. Haley Barbour signed, during the three-month session that
ended in early April. Most new state laws take effect on July 1,
the beginning of the new state budget year.
Some of the other new laws will:
- Further tighten abortion restrictions by requiring each
abortion provider to perform a sonogram and give the pregnant woman
a chance to listen to a fetal heartbeat.
- Eliminate the "no child, no crime" defense used by some
people arrested in stings where undercover operatives pose as
children to catch sexual predators.
- Authorize several new vanity car tag designs, including those
with the slogans, "Mississippi, Home of the Blues," "In God We
Trust," or "Thank a Teacher Today."
- Allow the Mississippi Department of Transportation and city
and county governments to build toll roads in places where free
alternative routes exist.
Evelyn Garner Araujo of Jackson, a former teacher who's now a
stay-at-home mother of three, applauds the law that requires public
schools to provide at least 150 minutes of physical activity and 45
minutes of health instruction each week for students in
kindergarten through 8th grade.
She said her two school-age sons and toddler already get plenty
of exercise at home. Matthew, who is entering first grade this
fall, and Joseph, who's going into fifth grade, are on a swim team
this summer and regularly run and climb on a playground near their
Araujo said teachers can find relatively inexpensive ways to
make sure children get enough physical activity at school by
playing hopscotch, jumping rope or participating in other
traditional recess activities.
"I think we can do it for low cost. But I think we have to be
creative about it, and I think we have to help our teachers be
creative about it," Araujo said.
The security freeze law "gives identity theft victims a
powerful tool to stop crooks cold," Gail Hillebrand of the
nonprofit Consumers Union said in a news release.
The law says a consumer whose personal information has been
illegally used by others must file a police report, and then may
send a copy of that report to a consumer reporting agency to put a
freeze on a file. The agency may charge up to $10 to carry out the
"A security freeze stops identity thieves from using stolen
information about you to set up fraudulent accounts that can ruin
your credit record," said Hillebrand, director of a Financial
Privacy Now campaign for Consumers Union.
Mississippi joins more than three dozen other states that have
enacted "move over" laws requiring drivers to slow down or move
over to other lanes of traffic, where possible, when they see law
enforcement officers or emergency personnel along highways.
For years, Mississippi has had an often-ignored law that
requires drivers to make way for emergency vehicles that are
moving; the new law requires drivers to make way for the emergency
vehicles that are stopped.
The new law means a motorist passing an ambulance, fire truck or
other vehicle on the side of the road must slow down and yield the
right of way by changing lanes, keeping at least one empty lane
where possible. If a lane change is impossible, a driver must slow
down and be prepared to stop, if needed, to prevent collisions.
Violators may be fined up to $250 for failing to comply and up
to $1,000 if there is damage to the official vehicle or injury to
any driver or passenger of an official vehicle.
Stan Alford is communications center manager for the central
Mississippi operation of American Medical Response ambulance
service, which serves Hinds, Madison and Rankin counties. Alford
moved into the management job after spending 12 years as a
He said emergency crews often find their own lives endangered by
drivers who simply don't pay attention and make room. He said the
new "move over" law will be effective only if motorists know they
could face punishment for failing to make way.
He said if drivers get out of the way, emergency crews can
respond more efficiently to 911 calls.
"Our number one priority is getting to the patient quicker and
safer to alleviate any pain or suffering," Alford said.
AMR spokesman Jim Pollard said that along with the three
Jackson-area counties, the company serves coastal Harrison and
Hancock counties and southwest Mississippi's Adams County.
The bills are Senate Bills 2057, 3034, 2369, 2391; House Bills
661 and 909 and Senate Bill 2375.