Archive for Thursday, November 18, 2010

Laws or guidelines?

Without adequate penalties and enforcement, traffic laws don’t have much effect.

November 18, 2010


Having a traffic law on the books isn’t always enough. If a law isn’t adequately enforced or has a penalty so insignificant that it doesn’t encourage compliance, it will have little impact.

For instance, when are Kansas law officers going to start enforcing the new law that makes it illegal to drive in the left lane of a multi-lane highway except when passing another vehicle? There are few things more annoying to a motorist than to be trapped behind two vehicles traveling the same speed. Even if there is room on the right, passing in the right lane can be a risky practice.

To try to address this issue, Kansas legislators passed a law that went into effect July 1, 2009, making it illegal to drive in the left lane except to pass or when passing stopped emergency or maintenance vehicles. For the first year, officers were instructed to issue only warnings to offenders of the law, but since July 1, 2010, violators have been subject to a fine of $60 plus court costs.

That’s an adequate deterrent, but it only works if officers pull people over and issue the tickets. Casual observation of the state’s highways seems to indicate that the law isn’t being enforced enough to have much effect.

At least the left-lane law has some teeth — if officers choose to use them. The same can’t be said for some other Kansas traffic laws.

Take the primary seat belt law passed by the Kansas Legislature earlier this year. The law makes a seat belt violation a “primary” offense, meaning that officers can ticket someone simply for not wearing a seat belt even if no other violation is involved. The measure gained grudging support from legislators, because it would bring an additional $11.5 million in federal highway funds into the state. However, lawmakers decided to undercut the impact of the law by setting the fine for an infraction at $5. The law went into effect on July 1, and it hopefully has had a positive impact on seat belt use, but the $5 fine probably hasn’t been a meaningful deterrent to those who choose not to comply.

An example of an even more toothless measure is the state law that requires motorists to turn on their headlights whenever their windshield wipers are in “continuous use” because of inclement weather. Again, the law is a good, common sense way to make sure your vehicle is seen by other drivers. Unfortunately, legislators decided not to attach any penalty or fine to the law. An officer could pull someone over for not having their headlights on, but all he or she can do is inform drivers they are violating the law.

In cases like these, laws become more like guidelines. Smart, responsible motorists will drive in the right lane, wear their seatbelts and turn their lights on in the rain. It’s all the rest of the drivers out on the Kansas roads who worry us.


Gandalf 6 years ago

I've got an idea, when it comes to seat belts only worry about your self don't worry about me!

LogicMan 6 years ago

Except there's a big cost to society when you crash and are severely injured or killed. Not just your immediate and long term health care (especially those without massive health and long term care insurance), but also your lost productivity, child-rearing, etc. Don't be foolish -- put on your seat belt and drive as safely as possible.

Liberty275 6 years ago

"Except there's a big cost to society when you crash"

You spelled "your 3 layers of insurance" wrong.

Like the man said, mind your own business.

jafs 6 years ago


Unless it costs anybody else anything.

Or you're endangering your childrens' lives.

jafs 6 years ago

That's probably a good thing, given the way you like to drive.

llama726 6 years ago

And who pays for insurance? Other motor vehicle owners. The cost still gets passed along. Insurance companies draw their money from subscribers. Rates go up if costs for the company goes up. Your employer loses your productivity. There's a cost. Your auto insurer has to pay out a claim. There's a cost. Your health insurance (assuming you have it) has to pay out a claim. There's a cost. Your life insurance (assuming you have it) has to pay out a benefit. There's a cost.

Guess what? Two of the three costs are avoidable, and the third (life insurance) shouldn't have to be paid out until you die a little more timely death, right?

What if you don't have health insurance? There's a cost. What if you clog up the emergency room having people put you back together? There's a cost, and potentially unnecessary usage of medical resources which could be better used for someone who took literally two seconds to put on a seatbelt. There's just no excuse. We live in a society, not some anarchist/libertarian paradise where no one is going to have any vested interest in what you do. Get over it.

Stop crying that your freedoms are being taken away and strap on a damn seatbelt. It's not impeding ANYTHING. There is NO logical argument against it. None whatsoever. No need to be a crybaby about it.

Stuart Evans 6 years ago

insurance costs go up.. my azz! I don't know if you've ever been to Hartford, CT.. which is known as the insurance capitol, but you should see the granite and glass temples they've built for themselves. insurance companies aren't starving by any stretch of the imagination. all "increases in cost" are a direct need to benefit stock holders. the matter of whether I wear a seatbelt or how bad my credit is, has nothing to do with the cost of your insurance!

llama726 6 years ago

I'm not advocating for the system. The simple fact is, though, that the company wants to deliver profits to its shareholders, and if you make the company less profitable via accident, and many others do the same, you do nothing but cost more money. Furthermore, it doesn't matter. There's still not a good reason not to wear a seatbelt. None.

Richard Heckler 6 years ago

If those traveling in the left lane at 70 mph what in the world is too slow?

Isn't 80 mph breaking the law? Seems like that is very much in progress.

How about that tailgating at high speeds? Also very much in progress which is a cause for multiple car accidents most likely everyday.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years ago

Poking along in the left lane is certainly annoying, but the only thing that causes tailgating is the tailgater.

grimpeur 6 years ago

And the jackholes who think they can get anywhere any faster by tailgating when both lanes are full are the rest of the problem.

Both sets of jackholes deserve a circular track where they can be together forever.

Liberty275 6 years ago

You have only "broken the law" upon conviction.

jafs 6 years ago

Actually, that's not true.

If you're speeding, you're breaking the law, whether they catch you or not.

Liberty275 6 years ago

OK, so innocent until proven guilty is just a figment of my imagination?

thebigspoon 6 years ago

Do not confuse breaking the law with being caught and/or convicted of breaking the law. You are so intent on citizens' rights that you go too far in trying to start a "fight" about how the masses are opressed. Your premise is all wrong in this case: one may break the law without being convicted, but you are still guilty if, indeed, you did something illegal. Nice try, but save the bellringing for a real case.

cozy 6 years ago

No proof of said wrong doing.

Innocent until proven guilty. I can say that someone did whatever, but until you prove that it actually did happen, it didn't. Just like it doesn't make a difference to call and say that there is a car speeding through town. Unless they catch them speeding, then its just something that someone could've made up.

jafs 6 years ago

If you're speeding, you're breaking the law.

The fact that our court system requires a certain level of proof in order to convict doesn't change the basic fact above.

gl0ck0wn3r 6 years ago

Merrill is the slow driver in the left lane of life. He's got his turn signal blinking for the last twenty miles and he's totally oblivious to the danger he's creating in his wake.

hipper_than_hip 6 years ago

Who are you to decide how fast people should drive? You're probably one of those that like to park in the left lane during the commute and make everyone else go around you on the right.

As long as someone isn't driving like they own the road, then people can drive as slow or fast as they want. But driving 70 in the left lane and making everyone else go around you is selfish and you deserve a ticket for being a jerk.

jafs 6 years ago

Well, there are these little things called speed limits.

Anyone can't drive "as slow or fast as they want" legally.

Stuart Evans 6 years ago

tailgating at high speeds does not cause accidents. hitting the brakes causes accidents.

cozy 6 years ago

This. Not to mention no reason for the braking in the first place on the open road...

jafs 6 years ago

If you are tailgating and there's an accident, the law is that the person behind is presumed liable and at fault.

Don't tailgate, especially at high speeds.

cozy 6 years ago

Im talking about people slamming on brakes to try to prove something just because they want to drive in the left lane only. I did not say I was tailgating.

LogicMan 6 years ago

I've observed that one of the left-lane problems is also those who need to turn left off the highway, but move to the left lane far too early.

Liberty275 6 years ago

Bingo. Lefthand exits on an interstate should nullify the stupid law.

As for people driving slow in the left hand lane, if you stay on their tails for a mile, they will move over.

jafs 6 years ago

And if you're tailgating them, and there's an accident, you're presumed to be legally liable.

Liberty275 6 years ago

You don't sit their tailgating. You come up on them, then back off. That's a gentle way of saying I want by.

LogicMan 6 years ago

Flashing your lights, from a safe distance, was the most common method.

BorderRuffian 6 years ago

Talk about an essentially stupid law. The tickets ought to be issued to those idiotic drivers who get in the left lane on a 70 mph road, and refuse to move over to allow faster drivers to proceed unencumbered, not those who use the left lane thoughtfully and courteously. Highway 10 from Larryville to Olathe is one good example. Traffic flow is usually brisk and efficient, except when that one idiot hogs the left lane, refusing to allow faster drivers to go around. Highway 10 is usually fairly heavily trafficed, and there are typically slower drivers driving legally in the right lane. Those clueless buffoons who hog the left lane, refusing to let faster traffic pass, contribute both to the congestion as well as to incidents of road rage. As well, during times of heavier traffic (commuter traffic), both lanes are needed to handle the heavier flow. Get this law off of the books.

llama726 6 years ago

In defense of the people who are usually arguing against me on these boards, driving K-10 fairly frequently, I can tell you that the people aren't driving 70 mph, which is the posted speed limit. I've seen drivers riding parallel as low as 61 mph on the highway. Not the end of the world, certainly not worth getting angry about, but the fact is that people who want to travel at or below the speed limit should simply stick to the right lane.

notajayhawk 6 years ago

"Casual observation of the state’s highways seems to indicate that the law isn’t being enforced enough to have much effect."

Wonder where this "casual observation" took place, and if the editorial writer is aware that the new law (if I remember correctly) does not apply within city limits.

Liberty275 6 years ago

And don't forget drivers that don't wear nomex and helmets on their daily commute!

monkey_c 6 years ago

Stupid editorial, stupid law. I hate this law so much it makes me want to drive in the left lane all the time. Where I live I noticed during bad weather conditions that only the left lane stayed clear. Also, how can it be proven that a driver was driving in the left lane and not just taking a very long time to pass somebody? Or preparing for a left turn? Looking for a left turn? Or is a leftist and just prefers to hang out on that side of things. I'm so sick of so many stupid, stupid, stupid laws. If people can't deal with more than one lane of traffice, they should stay off of the highway, they are mentally ill-equipped to be on the road. Can anyone tell me what the point of this law is anyway? That is an honest question, becasue I see no value in it. Why do we pay tax dollars for four lanes if we can only use two of them?

jafs 6 years ago

The left lane is supposed to be a "passing lane".

So the idea is for people to use it that way.

If it's the only clear lane to travel in, that's a different situation.

monkey_c 6 years ago

Is an annonymous editorial? I wouldn't admitt to being such a ninny either.

WHY 6 years ago

What is even more stupid is traveling from Lawrence to Topeka on a three lane road with three cars traveling side by side. Often times the right lane is the open lane.

whats_going_on 6 years ago

The left lane rule isn't intended just so faster people can go faster. It's also to hopefully decrease the amounts of accidents if and when someone say...drives down the highway on the wrong side.....

whats_going_on 6 years ago

and any of you that claim you've never been slightly pissed off at someone driving really slow (slower than the speed limit, even) down the left lane, trapping you, you're lying.

LogicMan 6 years ago

"so that they can race to the metro and back. Of course, they would be"

Elected to Congress?

cozy 6 years ago

I would like to know how long you were staring at the other people's cars to "clock" them and not paying attention to your own driving...?

cozy 6 years ago

You are so full of it and that's all there is to it. Its one thing to glance around your surroundings and take mental notes and its another to STARE long enough at people's cars so you can somehow come up with a magical speed that people are always going only around you.

Also, I would say that I am at least 100% better of a driver than you. I take notes of how people around me drive, if someone likes to speed, if they drive slower, if they take off fast or slow from a stop, if they switch lanes without signaling, if they change lanes fast or slow, etc. I'm always watching for accidents as well.

Please quit being a whiny keyboard jockey and learn that there are more people on this earth than yourself and a lot of those people don't care what you have to say but they aren't going to attack you for having your own opinion. Take notes here, please.

costello 6 years ago

I cheered this law when it passed, and I'm disappointed not to see it enforced. Personally I drive the speed limit, so I'm usually the passee not the passer, but there have been times when I want to pass someone going 65 and another someone going 65 is driving right along beside them in the left lane. I've also had people drive up next to me as if they're going to pass, then slow down so we're traveling at the same speed and impeding traffic. Drives me nuts! I always speed up or slow down, so we're no longer traveling side by side.

What I can't figure out is why I should care if the other guy wants to go 80? If he's going 80, and I want to go 70, I don't see it as my duty to enforce the speed laws. I stay in the right hand lane, he goes past in the left hand lane, end of story.

cozy 6 years ago

"What I can't figure out is why I should care if the other guy wants to go 80? If he's going 80, and I want to go 70, I don't see it as my duty to enforce the speed laws. I stay in the right hand lane, he goes past in the left hand lane, end of story."


costello 6 years ago

Is it any of my business? I guess it's as much my business as anyone else's. What an odd question to ask on a public forum where everyone is expressing opinions.

People who drive in the left lane do cause problems. They impede traffic. The left lane is for passing. Always has been. Maybe it was simply a courtesy before, but I was taught to stay right unless I was passing. Over the years I've seen more and more people traveling slowly in the left lane. Hence the law.

I can't figure out why you feel so angry about it. Why hug the left lane when you're not in a hurry? Move over and let traffic pass. I suspect you're a bit of a control freak, and this is one of your ways of feeling important.

cozy 6 years ago

Its everyone's business when you don't use the P A S S I N G lane correctly. AND I'm pretty sure that you are not in a position ( as in--a COP) to enforce the rules of the road.

tomatogrower 6 years ago

But I've been slowly passing a car doing 65, I'm doing probably between 70-75, yet I'm buzzed and flashed by those doing 80-85 miles an hour. In this situation who really should get the ticket? The speeder and the reckless driver, that's who.

cozy 6 years ago

All Ive read so far is blah blah blah speeding blah blah.

Speed doesnt matter. The signs say "Keep Right Except To Pass". That means keep right except to pass. Not that hard to figure out. If youre in the left lane and not passing anyone, you get a ticket. No hanging out in the left lane so you can try to prove a point, cause an accident, etc.

But I watched a JOCO sheriff follow from a short distance, a person who was driving only in the left lane with no other cars around and they never got pulled over. Grrrr.

gl0ck0wn3r 6 years ago

You seem to be a pretty angry guy which is amusing because you've suggested those that are annoyed by people who cannot drive seek anger management. Projecting much?

cozy 6 years ago

Ive noticed that none2 likes to post stalk.

cozy 6 years ago

None2, you seem to be the ignorant one. I never said I was speeding. I see that you have a problem with reading comprehension. I like how I am "selfish" when I know how to pass and move back over. Grow up.

lawrencehatesbusinesses 6 years ago

Lawrence needs to outlaw motor vehicles for one day a week, except for public transportation or the delivery of food items. Think of the global cooling example that would set for other communities! We would also be in the public eye nationally as a fine example that other communities can emulate. Nobody would have to be concerned about driving slow in the fast lane (which I love to do!) because I know fast lane drivers are in a hurry, harr, harr, or if someone is wearing their seatbelt.

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