Mississippi bills die that focused on open containers, headlights

| 3/10/2008

A pair of bills in the Mississippi Legislature that were intended to increase safety on roadways in the state have died because lawmakers did not advance them out of committee, effectively killing them for the year.

The first bill – SB2242 – called for banning consumption of alcohol and possession of open containers of alcohol in vehicles traveling public roadways in the state. The bill would also have freed up millions in federal dollars for improving roads.

Mississippi law now prohibits drivers from having an open alcoholic beverage, but passengers 21 years of age or older are free to drink while in a moving vehicle.

Sponsored by Sen. Joey Fillingane, R-Sumrall, the bill sought to eliminate the open container provision. Violators would have faced fines up to $25. No points would have been added to driver’s licenses.

Exceptions would have been made for passengers in campers or motor homes, buses, taxis or limousines.

Mississippi is being forced to spend a portion of its federal highway money on traffic safety because the state doesn’t have a ban on open containers of alcohol in vehicles.

The federal government mandated in 2001 that states pass the provision or spend a percentage of federal highway dollars on public safety projects such as drunken driving checkpoints and installing cables in medians to prevent crossover accidents.

Headlight bill also dies in committee
Also failing to make it out of committee was HB97, which would have mandated a practice that is second nature to most truck drivers and other veterans of the road. The legislation would have permitted police to ticket drivers who fail to flip on their headlights during bad weather.

Sponsored by Rep. Gregory Holloway, D-Hazlehurst, the bill required lights to be on “whenever conditions necessitate the use of windshield wipers.” Drivers also would have been required to have their headlights on from sunset to sunrise.

Violators would have faced $25 fines.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Mississippi, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor