New laws effective Oct. 1

Published 9:42 am Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Two new laws became effective Oct. 1 in North Carolina – one to address a rise in the theft of copper and the other a safety measure on state highways.

Now, scrap metal recycling centers across the state will serve as the first line of defense against cooper thieves. That metal is a favorite of criminals for its easy access and sell. Thieves stealing copper from construction sites, utility firms, homes and churches has been an ongoing problem are reported nearly every day.

The new law takes into account not only the value of the stolen metal, but also the cost of repairs, when determining the type of felony that has been committed. It also bans recycling centers from paying cash for the copper. Scrap dealers will have to take a video or digital photo of the seller together with the metal he or she is selling. Recyclers must also keep a copy of the seller’s ID. Records will have to be kept at least two years and made available to law enforcement upon request.

The new law is welcomed by North Carolina electric cooperatives.

“North Carolina’s electric cooperatives supported the legislation and through a grassroots effort worked to help pass the legislation,” said Brandon Reed, grassroots specialist at The North Carolina Association of Electric Cooperatives. Co-ops were part of a wide-ranging coalition that also included district attorneys and homebuilders.

The statewide association surveyed its 26 members and found “numerous instances of copper theft,” Reed said.

“Copper was stolen from substations, poles, trucks and just about anywhere else in the system it could be found,” Reed said. “The survey showed that electric cooperatives in North Carolina suffered more than $1 million in damage as a result of copper theft in 2011.”

Another new law that was put in force on Oct. 1 deals with the safety of highway work crews as a new version of the state’s Move Over is now in effect. The law requires motorists to change lanes or slow down to avoid roadside utility and maintenance crews bearing flashing amber lights.

The General Assembly voted in June 2012 to include utility and road maintenance operations displaying amber lights – including some N.C. Department of Transportation work sites – on the list of situations where drivers legally are required to steer clear to help prevent accidents.

The state established move-over requirements for drivers in 2001. The law previously covered emergency responders, law enforcement vehicles, tow trucks, and Incident Management Assistance Patrols operated by the NCDOT.

Drivers are specifically instructed to move over at least one lane when two or more lanes are available in each direction. On roads with only one traffic lane in each direction, drivers must slow down and be prepared to stop. Drivers who fail to follow the Move Over law may be fined $250 plus court costs.

Forty-seven states have enacted similar statutes requiring drivers to slow down and, if possible, change lanes to avoid police cars, emergency responders and other types of official vehicles stopped on the side of the road.