Some new state laws take effect beginning this weekend

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.