Alabama changes seat belt law, adds road rage law

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Alabama’s new seat belt law requires all motor vehicle passengers—including those in the back seat—to wear a seat belt, effective Sept. 1.

State law previously required only drivers, front seat passengers and minors in the back seat to wear safety belts.

Department of Transportation statistics show 47 percent of the 37,133 people killed in motor vehicle crashes in 2017 were not wearing seat belts.

Data from 2016 also shows a disturbing trend—back seat passengers tend to wear their seat belts less because they wrongly believe that they are safer than those in the front: Fifty-seven percent of back seat vehicle occupants who died in crashes were unrestrained, compared to 47 percent of those killed in the front passenger seat.

The main reasons given for buckling up are that it prevents passengers from being ejected from a vehicle—which is usually deadly—and that airbags alone are not enough; in fact, an unrestrained passenger can be killed from the force of an airbag.

While the law is changing, the failure of a back seat passenger to wear a safety belt is a secondary violation, meaning a ticket cannot be issued unless the vehicle in question is first pulled over for a different reason.

Another new state law going into effect Sept. 1 is the Anti-Road Rage Act, intended to keep slow drivers out of the left lane of traffic. The measure limits left lane travel to 1.5 miles without passing.

There are exceptions, including traffic congestion, road construction, roadway obstructions, severe weather, left lane exits, and the duty to move over for emergency vehicles on the shoulder.

Law enforcement will only be handing out warnings for the first 60 days of the Anti-Road Rage Act due to a grace period. However, fines for first-time violations of the state’s Move Over Law, which requires vehicles to move over for cars with flashing lights on the roadside, are increasing from $25 to $100.