JEFFERSON CITY — Speeding, passing or intentionally hitting a barrel while in an emergency zone on Missouri highways could lead to new penalties for motorists.
The new law takes effect Wednesday and allows an additional fine for violations that occur close to where law enforcement officers, firefighters, emergency medical personnel or tow-truck operators are responding to a roadside issue.
Speeding or passing when an emergency responder is present will carry a $250 fine for the first offense.
There also will be a new offense for endangerment of an emergency responder that includes penalties for speeding by at least 15 mph, passing, using a lane not designated for traffic or intentionally hitting barrels while in an emergency zone. Fines will range from up to $1,000 if no one is injured to $10,000 if a responder is killed.
"The legislation will establish a safety zone around car wrecks and incidents on Missouri's highways. The intent is to discourage imprudent behavior in these areas where emergency personnel are focused on an incident and not on passing traffic," Sen. Jay Wasson, R-Nixa, said when lawmakers debated the measure.
The bill defines a highway emergency zone as any place where responders are working, as well as the lanes leading to an incident, starting within 300 feet of where it is possible to see traffic control devices or an emergency vehicle with active lights.
The Missouri State Highway Patrol said one law officer, two highway workers and two other traffic workers have been struck this year. Last year, more than three dozen were hit, including nine law officers and 18 other emergency services personnel.
The highway legislation is among various new Missouri laws that become effective this week. New laws generally take effect Aug. 28 unless the legislature specified a different start date when the measure was passed.
Another new law taking effect Wednesday is intended to help police combat metal thieves.
Scrap metal dealers already have been required to keep records for transactions involving copper and aluminum. That now will apply to catalytic converters. Dealers also will keep track of the license plate numbers of sellers and will be barred from buying metal identified as belonging to telecommunications or cable providers.
Jewelers will need to keep records that include a copy of a buyer's driver's license or photo and biographical information, the time and date of the sale and a description of the property purchased. Buyers also will be barred from accepting pre-melted gold, silver or platinum unless it is part of the jewelry's design and must keep what they buy for five days. Parental permission will be needed for a minor to sell.
In addition, the Missouri Sheriffs' Association says responsibility for concealed gun permits will be shifting to sheriffs from driver's license clerks. The change is part of the fallout from a dispute over the Department of Revenue's practice of scanning of documents needed for driver's licenses. It was learned Missouri provided a list of those with a concealed gun permit to a federal agent investigating Social Security fraud. The agent has said he was not able to access the list because of technical problems.
Sheriffs previously received permit applications, checked backgrounds and issued paper permits taken to license offices overseen by the Department of Revenue. Permits issued under the law will be valid for five years instead of three years, and those issued previously will be valid until their expiration date.