Stricter seat-belt rule soon to be law in Mississippi

| 2/10/2006

By Memorial Day weekend, drivers in Mississippi will risk a ticket if they or any of their passengers fail to buckle up.

Gov. Haley Barbour signed a bill into law Tuesday, Feb. 7, that makes failure to wear a seat belt a primary offense.

The Senate approved the final version of a bill late last month. The new law allows police to pull over drivers if they, a front-seat passenger or any child under age 8 anywhere in the vehicle, is not strapped in.

Violators would face a $25 fine – the same as current state law.

Before the new law, police could issue seat-belt citations to drivers only after stopping vehicles for other traffic violations, such as speeding.

The primary rule is intended to boost the state’s 60.8 percent belt usage rate – the lowest in the nation. It also will provide a boost to road and bridge funding in the state.

Federal highway funding legislation approved in August 2005 gives any state that adopts tougher seat-belt rules or achieves a belt usage rate of 85 percent a one-time federal grant for roads. With primary enforcement, Mississippi stands to claim $8.7 million.

Mississippi’s stricter rule will take effect on May 27, the beginning of the Memorial Day weekend.