Road safety bills die in Mississippi

| 2/8/2007

A slew of bills in the Mississippi Legislature that were intended to increase safety on roadways in the state have died.

The bills remained in committee Jan. 30 - the deadline to advance to their chamber's floor, effectively killing them.

Among the bills that met their demise is an effort that authorized troopers to ticket drivers who go too slowly in the far left-hand lane of multilane highways in the state. Sponsored by Rep. Eric Robinson, R-Quitman, HB517 was intended to prevent slower moving vehicles from blocking the normal flow of traffic.

The bill didn't specify a fine amount.

Another bill called for the Mississippi Department of Transportation to expand a stretch of state Route 25. Sponsored by Rep. Clayton Smith, R-Brandon, the bill - HB978 - required the department to expand to three lanes in each direction a portion of the highway in Rankin County.

Three separate efforts sought to mandate a practice that is second nature to most safety-minded truckers and others. The legislation would have permitted police to ticket drivers who fail to flip on their headlights during bad weather.

The bills would have required lights to be on "whenever precipitation necessitates the use of windshield wipers." Violators would have faced $25 fines.

Two more bills were intended to protect police and other emergency personnel during roadside stops.

Drivers would have been required to maintain a safe distance and reduce speed before passing emergency vehicles parked by the road with lights flashing. It would have required drivers to merge into a lane further away from emergency vehicles. On two-lane highways, drivers would have been required to reduce speed before passing emergency vehicles.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, at least 30 states have implemented similar safety zone rules.

The provisions in the bills still could be added to measures that remain active or they could be reintroduced during the next session that begins in January 2008.

- By Keith Goble, state legislative editor