New road laws set to go in effect Sept. 1

Published 3:09 pm Thursday, August 29, 2019

LANETT — The rules of the road will change slightly as the calendar turns from August to September.

Starting Sept. 1, all inhabitants in a moving vehicle must be wearing a seatbelt, according to a new bill passed by the Alabama Legislature in May. Previously, this law only pertained to anyone in the front seat and children ages 15 and younger in the backseat.

“Anyone in a car will need to be buckled in,” Rep. Debbie Wood, R-Valley, said. “We are doing this totally for safety.”

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According to the law, failure to wear a seatbelt is a secondary violation, which means the driver can be ticketed even if they were stopped for another reason. Also, anytime there is a seatbelt violation, the ticket goes to the driver of the vehicle.

“If you look at the national average, we are high on the chart of death in vehicles,” Wood said. “We are trying to save our people.”

According to the Alabama Department of Transportation, almost 60 percent of people who died from a vehicle crash in 2017 were not wearing a seat belt. In contrast, about 98 percent of people involved in crashes but not harmed were reported to have been wearing seatbelts.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that the national seat belt use rate was at 89.6 percent in 2018. Additionally, seat belt use in passenger vehicles saved an estimated 14,955 lives in 2017.

Another law added to the books starting Sept. 1 says that drivers must stay in the right lane unless they are passing. The law reads that drivers who stay in the left lane for more than 1.5 miles without passing another car will be eligible for a fine. It has been titled the “Anti-Road Rage Act,” Wood said.

“We have heard more frustration from drivers trying to pass in the left lane that somebody is backing up the entire interstate,” she said. “This is just about trying to get drivers to do the right thing.”

There are exceptions to the law, such as traffic conditions, inclement weather, obstruction or exiting to the left, according to the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency.

Wood said citations given out in the first 60 days after Sept. 1 will only be a warning to give people a chance to learn about the law and adjust.

Lastly, on Sept. 1, the fines for violating Alabama’s “Move Over” law will increase.

The law requires drivers to move over when they encounter emergency vehicles and any other vehicle with flashing lights stopped on the roadside.

Starting Sunday, first-time violators will see a $100 fine or the first violation, $150 for the second violation, and $200 for a third and any subsequent violations, according to ALEA.