Mississippi Credit Freeze Law Goes Into Effect

July 5, 2007

Several new state laws that took effect Juky 1 will impact the everyday lives of Mississippians.

One requires motorists to move over at least one lane, where possible, to make room for emergency vehicles, state troopers or tow trucks that are responding to accidents or breakdowns.

Another law allows people to put security freezes on their consumer records to try to combat identity theft.

They are among the dozens of bills that legislators passed, and Gov. Haley Barbour signed, during the three-month session that ended in early April. Most new state laws take effect on July 1, the beginning of the new state budget year.

The security freeze law “gives identity theft victims a powerful tool to stop crooks cold,” Gail Hillebrand of the nonprofit Consumers Union said in a news release.

The law says a consumer whose personal information has been illegally used by others must file a police report, and then may send a copy of that report to a consumer reporting agency to put a freeze on a file. The agency may charge up to $10 to carry out the request.

“A security freeze stops identity thieves from using stolen information about you to set up fraudulent accounts that can ruin your credit record,” said Hillebrand, director of a Financial Privacy Now campaign for Consumers Union.

Mississippi joins more than three dozen other states that have enacted “move over” laws requiring drivers to slow down or move over to other lanes of traffic, where possible, when they see law enforcement officers or emergency personnel along highways.

For years, Mississippi has had an often-ignored law that requires drivers to make way for emergency vehicles that are moving; the new law requires drivers to make way for the emergency vehicles that are stopped.

The new law means a motorist passing an ambulance, fire truck or other vehicle on the side of the road must slow down and yield the right of way by changing lanes, keeping at least one empty lane where possible. If a lane change is impossible, a driver must slow down and be prepared to stop, if needed, to prevent collisions.

Violators may be fined up to $250 for failing to comply and up to $1,000 if there is damage to the official vehicle or injury to any driver or passenger of an official vehicle.

Stan Alford is communications center manager for the central Mississippi operation of American Medical Response ambulance service, which serves Hinds, Madison and Rankin counties. Alford moved into the management job after spending 12 years as a paramedic.

He said emergency crews often find their own lives endangered by drivers who simply don’t pay attention and make room. He said the new “move over” law will be effective only if motorists know they could face punishment for failing to make way.

He said if drivers get out of the way, emergency crews can respond more efficiently to 911 calls.

“Our number one priority is getting to the patient quicker and safer to alleviate any pain or suffering,” Alford said.

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