TOPEKA — The Kansas House sent a flashing signal to peers in the Senate requesting help with a precise legislative crackdown on muscle-car enthusiasts who enjoy smoking their tires at traffic lights.
The plan involves catching up with the Kansas Supreme Court, which inspired legal controversy by tossing Olathe motorist Travis Sharp’s case of driving under the influence.
Of constitutional interest to the Supreme Court was that a Johnson County deputy pulled Sharp over in 2013 for standing on both brake and gas pedals at a traffic light until the tires spin. The justices agreed the muddled state law used to detain Sharp was only applicable to moving vehicles. That meant Sharp’s burnout exhibition in a stationary vehicle didn’t give the officer probable cause needed to nail him for DUI.
On appeal in 2017, the Supreme Court sided with Sharp.
Rep. Eric Smith, who works as a Coffey County deputy sheriff, took the lead in rebutting the high court. He told House members that citations for excessive speed or acceleration, including scorching burnouts, were common in Kansas. Law enforcement officers have no qualms about ticketing people who hold down the brake pedal while feeding more gasoline to the engine as the back wheels churn, he said.
Smith, a Burlington Republican, said the bill approved 82-40 in the House last week would deliver judicial clarity to the issue. Under House Bill 2534, drivers would be subject to a $100 fine for excessive speed or acceleration, even if the car or truck was stationary.
“It doesn’t add a violation and it lessens the penalty to that level of a speeding ticket,” he said.
Rep. Russell Jennings, R-Lakin, said the clunker statute would have to be fixed if the bill were endorsed by the Senate and signed by Gov. Jeff Colyer.
“Cities across the state have incorporated this language in their standard traffic ordinances,” Jennings said. “Intentionally operating a vehicle in a manner that causes rapid acceleration to the extent the tires break traction with the road is a dangerous act which places the welfare of the public at risk.”
The House bill would be among issues taken up by the Senate once the 2018 Legislature convenes Wednesday after a five-day weekend.