Politics & Government

Kansas House passes bill banning drivers from spinning wheels

Kansas lawmakers advanced a bill on Tuesday that would prohibit drivers from spinning or squealing their tires.
Kansas lawmakers advanced a bill on Tuesday that would prohibit drivers from spinning or squealing their tires. Getty Images/iStockphoto

Update: The Kansas House passed a bill prohibiting wheel spinning on Wednesday in a 82-40 vote.

The legislation gained first-round approval on Tuesday in a much closer 59-55 vote. It now moves to the Senate.

Lawmakers appeared persuaded that concerns that the bill’s ban on intentional wheel spinning, and not just unnecessary wheel spinning, could cause problems. Rep. Boog Highberger, D-Lawrence, indicated an amendment will be brought in the Senate to fix the issue.

Rep. John Carmichael, D-Wichita, voted against the bill on Tuesday but voted in favor on Thursday. He said the night had given him time to reflect, adding that sometimes lawmakers change their votes after having time to think.

A ban on wheel spinning and tire squealing advanced in the Kansas House on Tuesday.

The bill, which would set a $100 fine for violations, advanced on a 59-55 vote. It would apply to moving and stationary vehicles in normal road conditions.

Wheel spinning may sound like something lawmakers would have banned already.

And they have. Kind of.

Kansas law already prohibits "exhibition of speed or acceleration."

But the definition of what that means is loose enough that the Kansas Supreme Court last year threw out a conviction for driving under the influence that began with a traffic stop made under the current law.

Travis Sharp was pulled over in Olathe in 2013 after a Johnson County sheriff’s deputy saw him revving his engine, smelled rubber and saw smoke coming from underneath his vehicle, Sharp was at a light and not moving. Only after the stop began did the officer begin to suspect he was driving under the influence.

The Supreme Court ultimately found that the current law implies that a vehicle must be moving for an exhibition of speed or acceleration to take place. Because Sharp’s vehicle wasn’t moving, the officer lacked reasonable suspicion to make the initial stop, the court ruled.

"Officers have long recognized what an exhibition of acceleration is, but without clarity for persons operating motor vehicles, that’s a tough thing to enforce," said Greg Smith, with the Johnson County sheriff’s office.

No one spoke against House Bill 2534 during a committee hearing, and no lawmaker spoke against it during debate on the House floor. But the close initial vote could mean lawmakers will have difficulty passing the bill when a final vote is held, possibly Wednesday.

Bills need 63 votes to pass the House. Tuesday’s first-round vote of 59 fell short.

The traffic infraction of exhibition of speed or acceleration has too often been used in ways that do not engender respect for law enforcement among younger people, said Rep. John Carmichael, D-Wichita. The current law is used too broadly, he contends.

And the proposal in the House isn’t substantially better, he said.

"If the officer sees a true violation of the law, they ought to cite it. But having a vague standard left to the officer’s discretion is not the proper way to deal with careless or negligent driving," Carmichael said.

Rep. Eric Smith, R-Burlington, is a deputy sheriff in Coffey County. He also carried the bill on the House floor.

"We’ve always written (citations) under exhibition and acceleration when somebody’s power braking, when they stomp on the brake and slowly accelerate until the wheels spin," Smith said.

The bill prohibits maneuvers that can be dangerous, Smith said, and suggested that the Sharp case could have turned out differently if Sharp had made a mistake while spinning his wheels.

"Had this individual been power braking in that traffic and his foot slips off the brake, the vehicle can move sideways, it can cause damage, it can hurt people," Smith said.

If the House passes the bill, it will head to the Senate.

Jonathan Shorman: 785-296-3006, @jonshorman