In 2019, the Kansas Department of Transportation reported that Kansas tallied 1,431 work zone crashes with seven deaths — all seven were motorists. Of all work zone crashes, 67% were driver-related contributing circumstances. The top five:
- following too closely;
- improper lane change;
- right of way violations; and
- too fast for conditions.
Only 10% of those crashes occurred during adverse weather, and 78% of the crashes happened during daylight.
Utility workers are at risk each time they set up their equipment to make repairs and respond to outages. That is why the electric cooperatives in Kansas joined with other utilities to support expansion of the state’s Move Over Law to include utility workers to the Kansas law requirements.
Kansas first established the Move Over Law to protect roadside workers from traffic whizzing by just a few feet away. To reduce the danger to workers, the Kansas Legislature passed the law requiring motorist to switch to the lane furthest from any stationary vehicle displaying flashing lights. It went into effect on July 1, 2006.
Fast forward to 2021 where the diligent work of union representatives, utility partners and key elected leaders has resulted in the Kansas Legislature updating the law to include utility workers in the “move over” language, which requires motorists to switch to a non-adjacent lane when approaching stationary utility vehicles with flashing lights. Motorists are also prohibited from passing another vehicle within 100 feet of stationary utility vehicles. The law’s move over requirement only applies to four-lane roads and highways, but motorists on two-lane roads are required to slow down while passing a utility vehicle with flashing lights. The Kansas Legislature recently passed the law, which went into effect July 1, 2021.
To celebrate this important update to the law, KEC’s Leslie Kaufman, vice president government relations & legal counsel, participated in a signing ceremony for the law on Aug. 12, at the IBEW office in Topeka. KEC has worked with the electric cooperatives to spread the word with Move Over and Slow Down messaging in the August issue of Kansas Country Living, Share the Road bill stuffers and social media messaging shared across various digital channels.
The Move Over Law is a great step toward ensuring the safety of cooperative employees and other utility workers who work tirelessly to provide reliable service for Kansans. Considering utility workers often work at night or in severe weather to restore service, this law will help prevent accidents that could put both employees and drivers at risk.
KEC will continue to spread the word to remind the public to slow down, move over, and not take for granted the crucial service our utility workers perform each day — and night.
KEC and the electric co-ops of Kansas are raising awareness about these new requirements so we can work together “cooperatively” to keep utility workers and the public safe.
Gov. Laura Kelly, seated, and State Senator Ethan Corson (standing behind Gov. Kelly) are joined by union and cooperative, municipal and investor-owned utility representatives at a ceremonial bill signing celebrating expansion of the state’s Move Over Law. Leslie Kaufman (KEC), Clare Gustin and Sean Miller (Sunflower Electric Power Corp.) and Susan Cunningham (KEPCo) attended.