Get ready to move over or pay up
BY STAN FINGER
The Wichita Eagle
Driving cautiously around highway maintenance workers in Kansas isn't just a prudent move -- starting July 1, failing to do it will prove costly.
Anyone who doesn't change lanes, or slow down if traffic won't allow the switch, could be fined. Coupled with court costs, "you're looking at $156 total for just that one violation," said Kansas Highway Patrol Trooper Gary Warner.
The Kansas Department of Transportation on Thursday unveiled a sign in the northbound lanes of I-135 near 61st Street North urging motorists to move over for emergency and maintenance vehicles.
Similar signs are going up all over Kansas this week.
State law already calls for fines of $240 for those who don't change lanes or slow down for emergency services and law enforcement vehicles stopped along a highway.
The law was amended last year to include highway maintenance workers, but drivers were given a year to adapt to the change without being fined.
"We want people to pay attention to the signs, to the flag crews, to the directions of the construction zones," Warner said.
Fourteen people were killed and 657 were injured in work zone accidents last year, state officials said -- and 85 percent of the deaths were the motorists themselves.
Warner called the numbers "significant," which is why the state Legislature added work zone areas to the "move over" law.
Sedgwick County had 241 accidents in work zones last year, including 78 with injuries.
"Very few days go by that we don't have a crash during rush hour where traffic's kind of bunched up a little bit," Warner said. "Invariably, we end up seeing crashes there because people are following too close or driving too fast or not paying attention."
Common driving principles should serve motorists well as they navigate areas where maintenance workers or emergency vehicles are stopped, Warner said:
• Pay attention to signs
• Obey road crew flaggers
• Don't tailgate
• Don't speed
• Expect the unexpected
• Stay alert
• Be patient
And if all that seems like too much, he said, drivers can simply fall back on the Golden Rule.
"Just think about what their expectations would be of traffic if they were the ones standing on the side of the road," he said. "What would they want motorists to do for their safety?
"Just put on our shoes for a day."
Reach Stan Finger at 316-268-6437 or firstname.lastname@example.org.