State passes law on texting, inspection sticker

Published 12:02 am Friday, July 3, 2015

By Jackson Carpenter

NATCHEZ — When the clock struck midnight Wednesday, Mississippi residents may have wanted to text their friends about the state’s newly laws. They just better not have done it while driving on state roads.

On July 1, several new laws passed by the Mississippi legislature earlier this year went into effect.

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The new anti-texting-and-driving law makes it illegal to text or post to social media while driving in the state.

Violators can be fined $25 per infraction. Next year, fines will increase to $100.

Natchez Police Department Detective Jerry Ford said although patrol officers have yet to begin patrolling for texting drivers, he expects them to soon.

Ford knows the difficulties pertaining to this new law that lie ahead for patrol officers.

“I do know that (texting and driving) will be difficult to spot,” Ford said. “It is one of those laws where you will have to be right next to the driver to see them doing it.”

Even before the law passed, Natchez citizens have been paying attention.

Natchez resident Elizabeth Bacon and her son, Joel Bacon, both know it is a serious issue.

“I view it as a driving hazard, especially with all the teenagers on the road these days,” Elizabeth said.

Her son shared the same opinion as she did.

“Oh yeah, I know that it is a problem, and it can be a serious hazard,” Joel said.

Natchez resident Kat Neveykina agreed.

Neveykina claims to have not known about the new law, but she says she doesn’t text while driving because she is aware of how dangerous even a minor distraction can be.

“Even looking down to change the radio station can cause a serious problem, so I do not even risk it until I am at a red light,” Neveykina said.

Neveykina sees using her car’s Bluetooth features as a viable alternative, so her eyes never have to leave the road.

Along with the anti-text-and-drive law, the Mississippi legislature also made vehicle inspection stickers a thing of the past.

Doug and Patrick Smith, local brothers and co-owners of S&T Discount Tire, a Natchez auto body shop that issues vehicle inspection stickers, say even though they might lose money, they view it from a safety perspective.

“Yes, it will be a loss of revenue to us, but it will also open up the opportunity to use our time toward higher paying services,” Doug said.

Patrick Smith agreed, but also pointed out the safety issue caused by this law.

“It is not a big deal as a loss of revenue to us, but it definitely causes a problem,” Patrick Smith said. “The real problem is that there will be a lot of vehicles on the road that are not road ready such as people driving around with broken windshields, loose bumpers or tires, or worse, which makes driving a lot more dangerous.”

Along with the anti-texting-and-drive law and the discontinuation of vehicle inspection stickers, Mississippi legislators also passed the following laws:

-The Caregiver Act supports family caregivers when their loved ones go into to hospital and during the transition home. The law requires hospitals to provide patients the opportunity to designate a family caregiver and notify the family caregiver when their loved one is to be discharged or transferred. It also requires hospitals to discuss the patient’s discharge plan with the family caregiver and provide an opportunity for the family caregiver and patient to ask questions about aftercare medical and nursing tasks.

-The Right to Try Act allows physicians to prescribe experimental drugs, products, and devices to terminally ill patients who have no other treatment options.

-Military Tuition breaks waives out-of-state tuition fees at all Mississippi public universities and community colleges for military veterans, active-duty and reserve forces and eligible dependents.

-Autocycle Exemption Policy exempts autocycles from the state’s helmet requirements and allows people to drive autocycles without a motorcycle endorsement on their licenses.

-Special Needs Bill will provide up to $6,500 “Educational savings accounts” for parents of special-needs children who want to pull their children out of the public schools system.

-Cancer Drug Parity requires health insurance plans to provide equal coverage of oral and intravenous anti-cancer treatments.

-Hospital Transparency will open most meetings of public hospital boards to the public.