Archive for Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Newly passed state laws became effective July 1

July 5, 2011

As of July 1, Kansas motorists will be able to drive faster on select freeways, face tougher consequences for drunk driving and can expect to pay a maximum of $10 for not wearing a seat belt.

New state statutes the Kansas Legislature passed in the 2011 legislative session became effective July 1 with the start of the new fiscal year. Among the more noteworthy is a law requiring licensing procedures and inspections for abortion clinics, which has already been challenged in federal court, and a measure assuring referendums on most municipal annexations of more than 40 acres.

The law establishing the $10 maximum fine with no court costs for failure to wear a seat belt was in response to what lawmakers viewed as abuse to the primary seat belt law the Legislature passed in the 2010 session. That measure allowed law enforcement officers to stop and issue tickets when they spotted those in the front seats of vehicles not wearing seat belts. Before that statute change, seat belt tickets could only be issued when a driver was stopped for another violation.

With the passage of the measure, the state received $11.2 million from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

But some lawmakers were upset when cities started issuing tickets of up to $40 with another $50 to $60 in court costs for seat belt violations.

Tonganoxie City Clerk Kathy Bard characterized the primary seat belt measure as “educational” and meant to remind drivers and passengers of the importance of using seat belts.

The city’s administrative costs would exceed the revenue from the $10 it would receive for a ticket issued for a seat belt violation, Bard said. That doesn’t mean the Tonganoxie Police Department wouldn’t issue the tickets, she said, especially on holiday weekends when the department engaged in saturation patrols funded with a Kansas Department of Transportation grant. Two hundred seat belt tickets were issued during such a weekend last year, she said.

Bard warned that the new statute did not pertain to fines issued for those not complying with children’s restraint laws.

Tonganoxie drivers will only have to drive 4 miles to the south to the Kansas Turnpike to enjoy the new higher speed limits on select state highways. The speed limit on the turnpike from Kansas Highway 7 to the Oklahoma border and on 800 total miles of rural freeways increased from 70 to 75 mph.

The Legislature cracked down on driving under the influence through the use of interlock ignition devices that prevents those under the influence from operating a vehicle. First-time offenders who test for a blood-alcohol content of .08 to .15 percent will have their licenses suspended for 30 days and must have the devices installed on their cars for six months. The devices would be required for a year for drivers with prior container violations. First-time offenders with blood alcohol levels of more than .15 would received a one-year license suspension with subsequent vehicle interlock requirements.

Chad Lawhorn at clawhorn@ljworld.com contributed to this story.

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