The New Year came in with a rush of cold weather, snow and icy roads, but also a few new laws that are effective, all of which are safety related.
The first of the laws Act 697 The Arkansas Cigarette Fire Safety Standard Act was put into affect Jan. 1. The law places requirements on cigarette manufacturers to produce fire-safe cigarettes that self extinguish if left unattended. This is achieved by manufacturing cigarettes with a special type of paper with two bands called speed bumps that cause it to burn out.
Another law places a ban on toy guns that look like real guns. This law also went into affect at the beginning of the year. Its implementation stemmed from legislation following the death of a West Memphis youth who was shot by police officers while holding a toy gun that they thought was real. The law requires manufacturers of these toys to produce them in colors not normally associated with guns or put orange markings on the barrels.
Act 693 was also implemented Jan. 1. The Watercraft Safety Law was created in honor of 15-year-old Rachel Rutherford who died in a personal watercraft accident in 2007 in Hot Springs. The law requires anyone born on or after Jan. 1, 1986, who rides a personal watercraft or drives a boat of any kind on Arkansas lakes, to take a safety course through the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. For Sharp County, the regional testing area will be in Jonesboro at the Forest L. Woods Crowley's Ridge Nature Center. The Regional Director with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission Chuck Young, said their employees are currently working to ensure they make their classes compatible with the recent legislation as well as effectively getting their message out about boating safety.
Young said the coursework will be posted online and those wishing to take the test will complete the work online, print out verification that they have completed the work and then go to Jonesboro to take the 75-question test. Each person who passes the test will then be given a card that they must keep in the watercraft. He said it is a possibility that at a later date in the spring, there may be more testing facilities, but said because the law is so new, they are currently working on that issue.