MURRAY – Grass clippings thrown onto the roadway are a major pet peeve and fear of both motorcycle riders and bicyclists. Calloway County Sheriff Sam Steger says homeowners need to be aware of the potential hazard and keep their clippings off the road whenever they mow.
“I always encourage people to blow it off,” Steger said. “It’s not bad if it’s dry clippings, and the wind can maybe blow it off, but we get into – especially right now when it’s as wet as it is – those clippings get wet and then it’s just like glass. It’s very slick.”
Steger said that while grass clippings can be slick for four-wheeled vehicles, the vast majority of the complaints he hears come from people using two-wheeled vehicles. He said he hears a lot of complaints about grass in the road from bicyclists, and he bikes himself, so he understands the concerns. Steger said that while he understands it is sometimes difficult to keep grass off the road, he has also seen instances in which people have intentionally blown grass onto the road because they didn’t want it in their yard.
Steger said it can be a challenge for commercial mowers with large tractors to keep grass off the road, but he was encouraged when he recently saw a vehicle mowing for Kentucky Transportation Cabinet.
“I saw the state highway department, and I guess (partly because of) all the attention we put on blowing grass clippings off the road, they had a great, big blower that was mounted on the back of a pickup truck,” Steger said. “And as the bush hogs were mowing down the road, the truck was right behind the bush hog.”
Keith Todd, District 1 public information officer for the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, said that whenever he announces state highway mowing zones, he often hears from motorcycle riders upset about grass in the road. A year or two ago, he asked the KYTC personnel that keep track of traffic data throughout the state to analyze the last 15 years to determine how many crashes were attributed to grass clippings on the road. At that time, he said they could not find any cases where officials had actually determined that grass on the road was the cause of a crash. Even so, he said he would still recommend that homeowners always clear the road of any grass that blows onto it. Not only is it courteous, but it could keep you from being accused of causing a crash and potentially sued, he said.
“Motorcycle crashes attributed to grass on the roadway are pretty rare, but due to the potential for liability, I would highly suggest that if you’re mowing and you blow grass on the roadway, that you use your mower to blow it back off,” Todd said. “That’s what I do personally, and that way, you’re avoiding the liability if something should happen.”
Todd said the liability factor was the same reason why many commercial mowers – including some contracting with KYTC like the one Steger referenced – are making an effort to blow grass off the road.
Human Resources/Solid Waste Coordinator Gidget Manning said she also wished everyone would be aware of how slick grass can be for motorcycles.
“In a curve or on a hill when the rider comes up on it suddenly, it can be dangerous,” Manning said. “It doesn’t take but just one extra pass on the mower to blow it off the roads. It is just the considerate thing to do.”
City of Murray Street and Solid Waste Manager Ron Allbritten said the Murray City Council revised the city’s ordinance prohibiting deposit of trash or litter on streets last fall to include grass clippings. Ordinance 2019-1781 reads, in part, “No person, firm, corporation, or any other legal entity shall deposit or cause to be deposited any leaves, trash, grass clippings, dirt, paper, debris, or other litter, on any street, sidewalk or alley of the City.” The offense is classified as a misdemeanor, and if convicted, the person would be fined no less than $20 and not more than $500 for each offense. Each calendar day the violation continues would be deemed a separate offense.
Although there is currently no state law requiring people to blow their grass clippings off the road, state Sen. Danny Carroll (R-Paducah) and Sen. C.B. Embry Jr. (R-Morgantown) pre-filed a bill for the 2020 legislative session that would have amended KRS 512.070 to include, as criminal littering, permitting unsafe amounts of mowed grass to remain on a highway. According to the Legislative Research Commission, it was pre-filed on July 22, 2019, and introduced in the Senate as Senate Bill 19 on Jan. 7, 2020. It was sent to the Senate Transportation Committee on Jan. 8, but did not make it out of committee.