New traffic laws take effect Sunday

Published 3:00 am Friday, August 30, 2019

Beginning Sunday, everyone in the vehicle will need to be buckled in under state law, and drivers will need to stay in the right lane unless passing.

The two new laws will take effect on September 1 after both passed through the session of the Alabama legislature earlier this year.

Rep. Wes Allen, R-Pike, voted against the new seat belt law, which requires adult passengers in the back seats to buckle up or face the possibility of a ticket. Previously, the law only required children to use a seat belt in back seats, while all front seat occupants are required to buckle up.

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“I thought that law was unenforceable and added too much government into our lives,” Allen said.

Nonetheless, the bill passed both houses of the legislature and the law must be followed beginning in September. Not buckling up in the back seat will be a secondary violation, meaning that law enforcement officers will not be pulling vehicles over for unbuckled back seat passengers, but can cite occupants if they are unbuckled during a traffic stop on a primary violation.

According to the Alabama Department of Transportation, 60 percent of the people who died in traffic accidents in 2017 weren’t wearing seatbelts.

Another law, the “anti-road-rage act,” will make it illegal for interstate drivers to remain in the left lane for more than a mile-and-a-half without passing other vehicles. There are exceptions for road hazards, traffic congestion and moving over for emergency response vehicles.

“It’s a safety issue first and foremost,” Allen said. “It keeps traffic flowing smoothly.”

Since the law only pertains to Alabama interstates, it will be up to State Troopers to patrol and enforce the new regulation. For the first 60 days, Troopers will give warnings instead of citations as drivers adjust to the new law.

The changes come at a busy traffic time with many people hitting the road for the Labor Day weekend.

ALDOT is doing its part for highway safety by having no temporary lane closures on Alabama interstates after noon on Friday, Aug. 30, through midnight, Monday, Sept. 2.

“With so many people heading to football games or to the beach or lake during the holiday weekend, it’s even more important to focus on driving safely,” said Allison Green, Drive Safe Alabama Coordinator with ALDOT. “Buckle up every seat, every trip. A seat belt is your best defense on the road.”