Archive for Tuesday, June 9, 1992

ORDINANCE UNDER FIRE

June 9, 1992

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Two Lawrence residents say they want the city to once again clarify traffic laws barring motorists from turning left into parking stalls on Massachusetts Street and in other downtown areas.

The city this spring changed the section in the Standard Traffic Ordinance for Kansas Cities under which motorists are cited for making U-turns. The ordinance was changed after a woman fought her citation.

The city changed the section under which motorists are cited from one that says no U-turns are allowed "when posted," to a section that says no driver shall drive on the left side of a road that has been marked with double yellow lines as a no-passing zone. However, that section of the ordinance allows making left turns into alleys, private roads or driveways over a double yellow line.

Massachusetts Street is marked with double yellow lines downtown, but there are no "No U-Turn" signs posted along the street.

One Lawrence resident contends that wording in the new section still does not adequately address whether turning into a parking stall from the opposite direction is illegal.

Another says his citation was changed from making an improper U-turn to inattentive driving, which he said has nothing to do with making an improper turn or crossing double yellow lines.

BOTH RESIDENTS fought their citations in court for several months and said they feel as if the city has no adequate means for addressing illegal U-turns, but is using different and inconsistent ways of punishing motorists for the same action.

"Frankly, I hope the next person who gets cited fights it," said Tom Morgan, an employee at a local car dealership, who was cited for making an illegal U-turn in September on Massachusetts Street.

Morgan said he fought the ticket in court, and that the original charge eventually was changed to inattentive driving.

Morgan received a letter late last month informing him of the amended charge, which won't appear on his driving record but carries a $41 fine.

"I got tired of fighting it I didn't have the time to keep this going forever," he said.

JOHN GREENE, a local resident who was cited in February for making a U-turn under the "no-passing" section of the ordinance, fought his ticket during a trial on Friday. Greene argued that the section under which he was cited is intended under the law to address passing, not turning left to park.

"The (ordinance) clearly was designed to prevent people from passing on a double yellow line. I was not passing."

Greene said that during his trial he was only given about five minutes to make his arguments.

Greene said Municipal Court Judge George Catt did not respond to any of his arguments, declared him guilty, but then ordered his fine cut in half.

"I was very disappointed, both in the way he conducted the thing and the outcome," Greene said.

CATT SAID he is not obligated to tell a person on trial why they are found guilty or innocent.

"Because then, you just get into an argument with someone," he said.

"My interpretation has not been that a driveway is a parking space," he said, adding that a motorist has a right to appeal such a decision. "Other than turning into a driveway or alley, everything else is in violation of the (no crossing double yellow lines) ordinance."

Catt said the city prosecutor has a right to amend charges up to the day of the trial, but that a motorist has a right to delay the trial if the charge is amended.

Attempts to reach City Prosecutor Tom Porter were unsuccessful today and Monday.

CITY MANAGER Mike Wildgen said he would not get involved in muncipal court decisions.

"In municipal court, if an item comes up and the city code isn't clear the judge will make a request that we clarify it," Wilgen said.

He said no such request has been made for illegal U-turns.

However, he said that if citizens feel the wording is unclear, they may write to him and request that the city clarify the ordinance.

"If there's suggested wording, I'd like to hear it," he said.

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