Today’s post may seem overly obvious. Most states contain a moving violation offense for driving on the wrong side of the road upon those roads wide enough for multiple lanes of vehicle travel. For almost all of us in America, driving is done as far to the right side of the road as possible, or, within the marked, right lane of the roadway. Why? it feels silly even asking, but we must conform to the goals of each blog post. To state simply, any state laws requiring driving on the right side of the road likely want to encourage drivers to avoid collisions with traffic traveling in the opposite direction. A public policy I think anyone can get behind.
In Kansas, the statute regarding this type of moving violation is KSA 8-1514. This violation and today’s blog are not to be confused with driving off the road into the ditch, which is another statute entirely. No, this statute specifically criminalizes the act of drifting from your required lane of travel into the oncoming lane of travel. Driving left of the center line could be another way certain states list this offense. What makes this particular moving violation interesting, though, is not speculating the public policy behind such a law, but how the offense is actually violated.
For prosecutors, most would like the violation to have absolute liability. This means that if you cross into the other lane, for any reason and by any amount, you are guilty. Many state statutes, however, do provide exceptions. Are you guilty if you only slightly cross or does your entire vehicle have to be in the other lane? What if you feel you have to cross to avoid hitting and animal? Are you guilty if road construction narrows your lane of travel to the other lane? These are all good questions that many statututes sometimes forget to cover.
For the defense, these statutes have to be analyzed very carefully to see if any exceptions to this rule are provided. Kansas provides exceptions for passing in marked passing zones, avoiding an obstruction in the road, for road construction narrowing the lane, and for multiple lane zones. What is hard on the defense, however, is that if you do not meet the few exceptions given by the law, the liability then DOES becomes absolute. Very few Judges will care if you spilled your coffee, dazed out for just a second, or you had to discipline a child in the back seat. While this violation seems to be one that we can all agree is good public policy, there are areas of debate when people start discussing how this particular offense gets violated and when you should be punished for it.
Until next post, everyone drive safe!