Topeka Hoping to grab the attention of drivers on Kansas Highway 10, the state Senate on Wednesday advanced legislation that would double fines on the roadway between Lawrence and Johnson County.
“The point is not to fine people. The point is to save lives,” said state Sen. Tom Holland, D-Baldwin City, who has pushed for the legislation on behalf of the family of Cainan Shutt, a 5-year-old Eudora boy who was killed in an accident last year on K-10.
Senate Bill 342 was forwarded on a voice vote. A final vote is expected today. If approved, it will then head to the House for consideration.
Under the measure, traffic fines would double along K-10 and another heavily used road: U.S. Highway 54 in Wichita. The Kansas Department of Transportation would add signage alerting drivers that they were in a safety corridor and the increased fines.
Cainan’s family and Eudora officials have asked legislators to approve the bill.
Last April, a car driven by 24-year-old Ryan Pittman crossed from the eastbound to westbound lanes on K-10 near Eudora and struck a minivan in which Cainan was riding. Both Pittman and Cainan died. A toxicology report indicated that Pittman tested positive for a therapeutic level of methadone, an elevated level of tramadol and the active components of marijuana.
The accident spurred KDOT to move forward with a plan to install cable-median barriers this summer.
But supporters of the bill say more can be done to increase safety.
Holland said K-10 is deceptively dangerous because it is such a good road that drivers start speeding without realizing it.
State Sen. Les Donovan, R-Wichita, said the same problem plagues 54 in Wichita.
“We have people dying out there that don’t need to,” Donovan said.
But the bill came under some criticism.
State Sen. Rob Olson, R-Olathe, said he saw the bill “more as revenue enhancement for law enforcement” and that it wouldn’t have prevented the kind of accident that killed Cainan.
Olson said lowering the speed limit or setting up median barriers would be more effective.
“I don’t really see this as a solution. If we want to lower the speed limit, let’s have that debate,” he said.
As the bill came out of committee, it would have eliminated the so-called buffer zone for tickets given in the safety corridor. The buffer zone allows speeders to avoid having their tickets reported to their insurer if they aren’t going more than 10 mph over the speed limit. An amendment, however, by state Sen. Mike Peterson, R-Wichita, on Wednesday put the buffer zone back in, but at 5 mph over the speed limit in a safety corridor. Peterson also tried to amend the bill so that the safety corridor program would expire in three years unless the Legislature renewed it. But that amendment failed.