Back seat passengers will have to buckle up, drivers will need to give a wider berth to bicyclists and slow-driving sightseers will need to stick to the right lane on Louisiana’s highways under the new state traffic laws that went into effect Aug. 15.
Nearly 300 new statutes are on the books, passed by lawmakers earlier this year and ranging from arcane language changes to new legal protections for doctors, nurses and pharmacists who refuse to provide health care on religious or moral grounds.
The traffic laws are among those that likely will be most noticeable to citizens.
Each carries a fine for violators, but the Louisiana State Police says its troopers won’t start handing out tickets until October. Until then, troopers will stop those not complying with the law and will issue warnings.
“It doesn’t mean we won’t be enforcing it, because we believe these laws are important. But we won’t be writing citations. We want to just make sure that the public has an opportunity to learn about the new laws,” said State Police Lt. Doug Cain.
It also doesn’t mean all local police agencies will have a similar “grace period,” however. They can begin issuing tickets immediately if they choose.
Passengers can be ticketed $25 for a first offense and $50 for a second offense if they aren’t wearing a seat belt in a vehicle, including those in the back seat who previously weren’t required to buckle up.
Rep. Nickie Monica, R-LaPlace, sponsor of the new law, said 33 people died last year because they weren’t wearing a seat belt and were ejected from the rear seat of a vehicle during an accident.
“We just need to get people to buckle up. We know seat belt usage saves lives,” he said.
A new law that requires motorists to give bicyclists a 3-foot buffer when passing them – or face a fine of up to $250 – was prompted by the death of 29-year-old Colin Goodier, an LSU medical student who was killed last year when a pickup truck crashed into the back of his bike.
Anyone in a vehicle who harasses or throws things at a cyclist will face a minimum fine of $200, plus up to a month in jail, under the new law by Rep. Michael Jackson, I-Baton Rouge, called the Colin Goodier Protection Act.
Another change for drivers requires left lanes on multilane roads to be used mainly for passing cars. Drivers can be ticketed – with fines varying by jurisdiction – if they use the left lane for anything other than turning or passing another car, unless there’s traffic congestion or the right lane is closed, under the new law by Rep. Reed Henderson, D-Chalmette.
In the instances of all the traffic changes, lawmakers cited safety and talked about injuries and deaths caused in accidents.