Grass clippings in the road can be dangerous, whether they’re sitting on a curved portion of the road, on the shoulder, or in the middle of the lane. But are they truly harmful? Are there any laws against it? Specifically, does Pennsylvania outlaw grass clippings on the road?
No state law in any of the 50 states pertains to grass clippings, especially grass clippings that are blown into the road as a result of mowing near the shoulder. While the state doesn’t outlaw it, a few municipalities in Pennsylvania do.
Of course, if you walk out to a road in Pennsylvania and start dumping your entire grass clippings bag in the middle of the highway, state, county, or city police may have a problem with that, at least in terms of violating the dumping “rubbish” laws.
Are Grass Clippings in the Road Dangerous?
Throughout the summer, it’s common to see someone mowing along the shoulder of backroads and major highways, which naturally blows grass clippings out into the road.
However, state, county, or local workers are just as guilty of it as homeowners or those who own the property.
Depending on what city, township, or municipality you are in, there may be a law against blowing (whether directly or indirectly) grass clippings out into the road.
Those local laws exist because grass clippings on the road can potentially be dangerous.
It mostly depends on where the grass clippings are and the kind of traffic that comes through, in terms of speed and turning.
Grass Clippings are a Roadway Hazard
On a hot day, grass clippings on the road are probably irrelevant to most drivers, especially if it’s windy and they are naturally blown around and spread out. On a wet day, however, it’s exactly the opposite.
Grass clippings become pretty slippery on asphalt, and it could cause a hydroplaning effect on passing drivers. The danger is mostly to those on motorcycles since they are only on two tires after all, and balance on a motorcycle is imperative.
Even on a hot and sunny day, grass clippings blowing out from the blade cover or blower tunnel can be a serious distraction for someone on a motorcycle.
Even if it doesn’t happen to be illegal in your area, if a motorcyclist goes into a slide because of the grass clippings you just blew into the highway, you will probably end up in court, legally liable.
Mostly, It’s Illegal for Environmental Reasons
Grass clippings cause many problems if they are near a body of water. So while it may not be illegal per se, it may be indirectly illegal as a violation of the Clean Water Act.
Grass clippings in the water harm aquatic life, especially if those grass clippings contain herbicides or insecticides. Both are harmful to fish and animals who approach the water and drink from it.
Indirect Danger of Drainage Systems
One of the significant concerns with grass clippings is that they will disrupt the drainage systems on the roadways. As grass bundles up in the egress and ingress points where water is designed to flow during a storm, it clogs it up.
The clog itself is not immediately apparent, but it will allow water to build up and potentially pool across the road. It can also divert the natural drainage system, such as roads located on hills.
Roads are designed to drain heavy water during fierce thunderstorms, and grass clippings can chip away at that capability. The ultimate result is standing or moving water on the roadway that isn’t supposed to be there.
Standing and moving water cause hydroplaning and can cause many accidents, all because of frequently allowing grass clippings out into the road throughout the summer months. Of course, it doesn’t help that the summertime usually means a lot of afternoon thunderstorms.
Why Do States Not Make Laws Over Grass Clippings on the Road?
That’s because of how the law works in most cases. For example, laws concerning roadways, traffic lights, turn signals, headlights in the evening, operating brake lights, closely following drivers in front of you, driving slow in a passing lane, and more are designed for what happens “on” the roadway.
Mowing the grass off the side of the road is something that essentially doesn’t fall under the purview of traffic laws.
It’s not traffic. It’s not on the road. You might ask why there are laws about dumping rubbish on the road then? That law falls under a different aspect of the law, which is littering.
Then you have to include the fact that the highways and much of the land that immediately surrounds the highways are state-owned property. That means state workers are dispatched to mow the shoulder and median whenever the grass is tall enough.
Most of the time, they will have bags on their mowers, but not all the time. Besides, bag or no bag, grass clippings will end up on the road no matter what. The grass that the bags don’t suck up is blown off to the side when the mower makes another pass.
If states start making laws about grass clippings blown out onto the road, they will have to police themselves as much or more so than anyone else.
How to Deal with Lawn Clippings
If you are the one doing the mowing, bring a leafblower with you. Mow next to the road first, and then use the leafblower to get those clippings off the road as fast as possible.
It’s also a good idea to start right when the sun is kissing the horizon in the morning.
Fewer cars will be out at that time of the morning, which will give you a better opportunity to clean up your grass clippings before the real traffic starts rolling in. Always mow close to the road first so you can blow the clippings off the road.
Plus, if you start close to the road first, you will have fewer clippings blowing around because you haven’t mowed anything else yet. Then, as you work yourself inward, grass clippings will no longer become a problem.
Whichever side of your mower is the blowing side, you can keep pointed in the opposite direction of the road while you mow that first long strip directly along the shoulder of the road.
As a driver, whether you’re in a car or riding a motorcycle, it pays to always be aware of your surroundings. If you see grass clippings in the road ahead, don’t underestimate them and slow down before you go through them.
While no states, including Pennsylvania, have laws over grass clippings on the road, check your local laws to see if it is illegal in your town or municipality. You might have been mowing and breaking local laws without even knowing it.
Whether illegal or not, you can protect yourself and others by making sure you mow your lawn a certain way and bringing along something that will clean up the mess quickly.
- Can Grass Clippings Be Fed to Cows?
- How Do You Dispose of Grass Clippings And Leaves?
- Can Grass Clippings Cause A Fire?
- Will Grass Clippings Kill Plants And Trees?
- Is It Illegal To Blow Grass In The Road In South Carolina?