TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) - Kansas has joined 18 other states in adopting a law requiring motorists to use caution around garbage trucks by making driver carelessness a fineable offense.
A ticket for what is now known as "unlawful passing of a waste collection vehicle" will cost an offender $45 starting July 1, 2019. Until then, police will hand out warnings.
The Kansas law took effect this month. Motorists are required to treat stopped garbage trucks with "due caution," meaning they must slow down when nearing the truck and give it space when passing.
Exactly what constitutes "due caution" will depend on the given circumstances and the judgment of the enforcing police officer. The same standards are in place for emergency vehicles.
"Drivers have a habit of not always paying attention, of getting distracted and running into the back of the vehicles," said Brandon Wright, communications director for the National Waste and Recycling Association.
Garbage collection is the fifth most hazardous civilian job in the U.S., according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and motorists are a big reason.
Besides inattentive driving, drivers often try to zip around trucks too quickly or squeeze by them when there's not enough room, all of which can end badly for the workers, Wright said.
"You just hate to see someone get hit beside one of those big old trucks," said Senate Transportation Committee Chairman Mike Petersen, a Wichita Republican. "There's not much between them and the traffic. It's not pretty."
His committee heard testimony from nearly a dozen waste industry employees and experts supporting the law, which convinced members of the need, he said.
Kansas traffic laws generally require drivers to adjust their speed and tactics for road conditions and weather to remain safe. The state Supreme Court ruled in 1970 that a driver must exercise "ordinary care and caution" to avoid accidents.
In the case of the new law, drivers are likely to get pulled over if they "buzz right by at their normal speed" when a garbage truck is present, said state House Transportation Committee Chairman Richard Proehl, a Parsons Republican.