KHP, KDOT laud Senate bill altering ‘move-over’ law to cover all vehicles along Kansas roads

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Existing state law limited to police, fire, EMS, tow and maintenance vehicles

TOPEKA — Kansas Highway Patrol Capt. Candice Breshears can speak from experience about the danger of parking a cruiser on the side of a road perilously close to car and truck traffic.

“I’ve been struck by a semi,” she said. “I would hate to see that happen, not only emergency vehicles, but citizens of this state.”

Breshears said KHP was committed to a Kansas Senate bill amending the state law requiring motorists to move over a lane or significantly slow down when passing police, fire, medical, tow or road maintenance vehicles stopped on the side of a road with flashing lights deployed.

Under Senate Bill 142, the safety mandate would be applied to all motorists stopped, stranded or parked on the roadside and using caution signals, road flares, orange cones, reflector triangles or any other warning sign of distress. If unable to move over a lane, the bill would require drivers to proceed with “due caution” in their lane at a speed acknowledging the life-safety risk to people inside or outside a stopped vehicle.

Violation of the new standard would be a $75 fine, which would match the penalty imposed on motorists who don’t take steps to safely pass an emergency vehicle. A second infraction within five years would trigger a fine of $750 and the third within that timeframe would be $1,000.

“Our troopers can attest to the danger they encounter on a daily basis when working on the side of a road,” Breshears said. “A matter of feet and sometimes inches can be the difference between a safe traffic stop and being seriously injured or killed.”

Joel Skelley, director of policy for the Kansas Department of Transportation, said stationary vehicles on the side of Kansas roads were involved in nearly 700 traffic accidents during the past four years. Thirteen people were killed as a consequence of those wrecks, he said.

The Senate voted 38-2 to send the bill to the Kansas House. Members of the Senate rejected an amendment offered by Sen. Rob Olson, R-Olathe, that would have repealed a 2023 statute allowing unmanned autonomous delivery trucks to be used on Kansas roads. Olson’s amendment, defeated 18-21 despite bipartisan support, would have required a person to be in the cab of computer-driven box trucks.

“I don’t think this technology is there yet,” Olson said. “I think we made a bad choice last year. We’ve got an opportunity to stop this before it starts.”

Sen. Tom Holland, a Baldwin City Democrat, said there were valid safety concerns about autonomous vehicles. He said adoption of driverless technology would throw thousands of long-haul truck drivers out of work.

The Senate bill was endorsed by KDOT, AAA Kansas, Safe Kids Kansas, Kansas Association of Chiefs of Policy, Kansas Peace Officers Association and Kansas Sheriffs Association. No one testified against the bill during the Senate Transportation Committee’s hearing in January.

Kansas Reflector is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Kansas Reflector maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Sherman Smith for questions: Follow Kansas Reflector on Facebook and Twitter.

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