Is it illegal to blow grass into the roadway?

Look, most of us have done it at one point or another.

You’re mowing the lawn and you blow grass onto the road.

But, did you ever consider that blowing grass clippings into the roadway may be a danger to motorcyclists?

When considering the possible dangers, it may bring you to ask the question: is it illegal to blow grass into the road?

The answer may not be what you think it is. 

Let’s take a look at the laws (if any), and real dangers of leaving lawn debris in the road…

For starters, I am certainly not completely innocent here. When I was younger, I would often blow grass from the lawn mower directly into the road. Of course, this was before I understood the dangers of doing so. In fact, I thought it was fun. 

In my defense, I was only 15. I was simply dangers that motorcyclists face face on the road.

And, honestly, it is simply not something most people even think about. And it was certainly not something I was ever taught about.

So, to the question at hand….

Look, most of us have done it at one point or another.

You’re mowing the lawn and you blow grass onto the road.

But, did you ever consider that blowing grass clippings into the roadway may be a danger to motorcyclists?

But, is it illegal to blow grass into the road?

The answer may not be what you think it is. 

Let’s take a look at the laws (if any), and real dangers of leaving lawn debris into the road….

Is it Illegal to Discharge Grass Clippings into the Roadway?

Not really, at least not specifically due to the dangers to motorcyclists… 

There is actually not really a cut and dry answer to the question, “Is it Illegal to blow grass into the road?”.

I know, in the age of the internet, you would think it would be a simple answer, right? 

Yet, the answer is just not that easy.

And this just goes to show how uninformed the general public is on the issue. 

Worst of all, most people aren’t aware of the dangers that grass clippings and other lawn debris can cause motorcyclists on the roadway.

In Some States, it May be Illegal… Indirectly

Though no states specifically ban the practice of discharging all grass into the roadway, some do prohibit placing anything on the road that may cause a hazard to motorists.

Such as this Virginia State Law entitled 2006 Code of Virginia § 18.2-324

2006 Code of Virginia § 18.2-324 - Throwing or depositing certain substances upon highway; removal of such substances

18.2-324. Throwing or depositing certain substances upon highway; removalof such substances.

No person shall throw or deposit or cause to be deposited upon any highwayany glass bottle, glass, nail, tack, wire, can, or any other substance likelyto injure any person or animal, or damage any vehicle upon such highway, norshall any person throw or deposit or cause to be deposited upon any highwayany soil, sand, mud, gravel or other substances so as to create a hazard tothe traveling public. Any person who drops, or permits to be dropped orthrown, upon any highway any destructive, hazardous or injurious materialshall immediately remove the same or cause it to be removed. Any personremoving a wrecked or damaged vehicle from a highway shall remove any glassor other injurious substance dropped upon the highway from such vehicle. Any persons violating the provisions of this section shall be guilty of a Class 1misdemeanor.

While it does not explicitly state that leaving grass in the roadway is a crime, the following statement could make it a crime to deposit grass in a way that could pose danger to a motorcyclist.

“Nor shall any person throw or deposit or cause to be deposited upon any highway any soil, sand, mud, gravel or other substances so as to create a hazard to the traveling public.”

But, the lack of explicitly stating that depositing grass in the road is illegal, leaves the law up to interpretation.

Discharging Grass Clippings On Roadway is Illegal for Environmental Reasons

Some cities, like the City of Davenport, Iowa, actually do ban blowing lawn clippings into the roadway. However, it is not due to motorcycle safety, it is actually part of their “Clean Water Act“. Other cities may have similar laws.

You see, in many cities and many states it is indeed illegal to place hazardous materials into the roadway. Yet, very few, if any, states have laws which specifically ban launching grass on the motorway (I can’t find them, let me know if you do) .

Now, some websites claim that the practice of discharging grass in the roadway is illegal. Yet, upon further investigation, their statements appear to be based heavily on speculation. And there is not really any law, which I can find in any state, that specifically bans the practice of blowing grass into the roadway. 

However, from a legal perspective: If you are blowing grass in the road way, and a motorcyclist loses control, because of the grass you placed there, you may be held liable for your negligent actions. In which case, you may need to find a good lawyer.

Criminal Negligence and Grass Clippings in the Roadway:

Though there appears to be a lack of laws governing lawn debris in the road directly...

There is another way in which motorcyclists are legally covered should any incident involving discharged grass in the roadway occur.

I reached out to Brad Biren of Des Moines Injury Law, and he had a very informative response to the question “Is it Illegal to Discharge Grass Clippings into the Roadway?” specifically in regards to the hazards it may pose to motorcyclists. 

This is what he had to say:

“There are three ways one can go about obtaining recovery, with lots of overlap in between.  The first method is treating the cause as a typical motor vehicle accident; the second is to claim it under your uninsured motorist coverage, and the third is to claim as a general negligence claim.

Each of these methods of recovery exist in a universe of three scenarios:”

Scenario 1:  Truck Litters Roadway with Lawn Debris, Causing Motorcycle Accident

“Motorcyclist is driving and the work vehicle ahead of him has debris littering the road and some of that debris was grass clippings and the motorcyclist couldn’t do anything to avoid the grass-clippings.  Solution: file a claim against that driver’s insurance policy and utilize your own Medpay (no-fault medical coverage connected to your auto coverage). “ 

Scenario 2: Lawn Debris In Roadway Causes Bike Accident from Unknown Source

“Motorcyclist is driving and sees that a work vehicle is letting debris and other grass clipping larder fall over the highway and poof an accident occurs.  Except this time, there is no at-fault driver in sight, only extrinsic proof that such a driver existed (e.g. witness statements). In that case, the motorcyclist would file an uninsured motorist claim against their own coverage and similarly access their medpay.  At that point, things work pretty similarly to a traditional motor vehicle accident claim.”

Scenario 3: Lawn Care Company Discharges Grass from Mower onto Roadway Leading To Motorcycle Accident

“Motorcyclist is driving and using due care and while driving past a lawn mowing company, the motorcyclist fails to see a large pile of grass clippings erroneously lying in the roadway.  In that case, the lawn company would be at fault for negligence in failing to maintain safe working conditions (grass should be bagged and not in the middle of roadways). You can still use your Medpay as you were on your bike, but the claim would be against the business’s umbrella policy vs their auto coverage.  Similar standards to prove causation and such as the first two scenarios.”

The three scenarios laid out by Attorney Brad Biren really reset my frame of thought on the subject.

I suppose the issue isn’t really “is it illegal?”.

What really matters is: “is there a remedy at law for the issue?”.

Indeed, there is.

Yet, being able to recover damages when an incident occurs is only part of the battle. The other half is avoiding the incident in the first place. And that may only come from spreading awareness of the issue. 

Why Aren’t there More Laws Governing Glass Clippings in The Roadway?

After reading the comments from attorney Brad Biren, it occurred to me that: the solution already exists in the legal system.

As far as the law is concerned. Laws governing grass in the roadway may not exist due to this simple fact…

Laws governing the roadway are vehicle and traffic codes, and on the other hand, the people cutting the lawns are not driving on the roadway. Therefore, two different jurisdictions exist. Creating a strange space where an actual incident must occur for something to be done about it. 

Maybe, just maybe, that is a good thing. Perhaps it is a sign that our legal system isn’t too over-protective, or at least it isn’t as bad as it could be.

On the other hand, the real danger of lawn debris in the roadway is something we need to have a long conversation about. Likely, most of the folks placing lawn debris in the roadway aren’t aware of what they are doing.

After all, only 8% of households even own a motorcycle. So it is not too surprising that many folks are not aware of the real dangers involved with spreading grass along the roadside.

Should there be more laws governing blowing grass from lawn mowers onto roads? Some think so.

In Conclusion: What is the Best Way to Go About the Issue of Lawn Debris in the Road? 

I would argue that the most effective method for controlling lawn debris in the roadway is: education.

I am certain that: if more people were informed about the issue of blowing grass into the roadway, they would simply opt not to. Whether or not a statute or code exists which directly bans the practice.

And, if you were in a motorcycle accident that was caused by someone else’s negligence act, you have options.

There are many excellent lawyers such as Brad Biren of Des Moines, Iowa ready to come to your aid. Many of those top-rated lawyers are listed right here on HealingLaw.

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    Is it illegal to blow grass into the Roadway? Look, most of us have done it at one point or another.

    You’re mowing the lawn and you blow grass onto the road.

    But, did you ever consider that blowing grass clippings into the roadway may be a danger to motorcyclists?

    But, is it illegal to blow grass into the road?

    The answer may not be what you think it is.

    Let’s take a look at the laws (if any), and real dangers of leaving lawn debris into the road….

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The Legal History of the Lawn

At one point in time, mowing the lawn and maintaining a landscape was a sign of wealth.

Now, the lawn is so ingrained in society that: not maintaining your lawn could lead to a fine, or even losing your home.

It gets even crazier, but some people claim adverse possession of others’ land, simply by maintaining it.

So what is the legal history of the lawn, and why do we have lawns?

Let’s find out…

Laws about lawns, the legal history of the lawn

The History of the Lawn

The theory for the original lawn is believed to stem back to the ancient African Savannah, where the people could see for far distances, with little visual obstruction.

With inspiration from the grasses of the African Savannah, the earliest written existence of the lawn comes from ancient Japan. Where the text called “Aatu-tei-kaiI” or “Sakuteiki” was written. This book covered the first known writing on the practices of sodding.

From this point, the legal history of lawns grew mostly in the dark, and we don’t see lawns on record again until the 12th century.

It wasn’t until the 12th century that we started to see the emergence of the lawn as we know it today. These lawns were maintained by scythe and grazing animals. It is believed that the lawn began as a sign of wealth, as most land surrounding homes was reserved for growing crops and food.

But, there are some legal theories that suggest that lawns were actually a method of owning a landscape through maintenance.

Here’s the deal, to understand the lawn, we have to take a look at the theory of “property rights”.

Lawn maintenance and property ownership

What are Property Rights?

As you may already know, property rights refer to:

” …any type of right to specific property whether it is personal or real property, tangible or intangible.”

-Blacks Law Dictionary 5th Edition. Page 1096

In the US, this includes the individuals right to private property. Whether that purpose is to hold, rent, or sell that property.

For the most part, property rights are pretty straight forward, and most of us have a general understanding of them.

However, by looking at the legal history lawns have played in society, we can begin to develop a deeper grasp of what it truly means to “own” property.

laws on lawns and their history

Locke, a philosopher and an original proponent of the scientific method of the 17th century, had a legal theory of his own. His theory reasoned that labor rights (or maintenance) of property could lead to property ownership.

Locke argued in support of individual property rights as natural rights. Following the argument the fruits of one’s labor are one’s own because one worked for it. Furthermore, the laborer must also hold a natural property right in the resource itself because exclusive ownership was immediately necessary for production.

Labor theory of property
owning a lawn through labor

How Far Back Does the Labor Theory of Property Go?

It is unlikely that Locke was the first to come up with the labor theory of property.

In fact, it would seem that if you look at the history of property of land ownership, it is a logical assumption that the original land became owned by those that worked the land.

“You own what you can maintain…”

-Unknown Origin

Though the history of property ownership through labor rights is largely undocumented, logically the idea is nothing new. Similar laws are still on the books to this day.

Laws about the history of the lawn

Adverse Possession Through Lawn Care

Though we don’t have a written historical record for land ownership through property maintenance, we do have laws today that stem from an unseen past.

It’s true, property ownership through mowing the lawn. It’s actually a thing!

At least in some states.

Similar to “squatter’s rights”, a person who maintains a lawn through mowing it for an allotted amount of time, can come to own the land!

According to the article by Home Steady, paying property tax may assist you in claiming adverse possession of the land you are maintaining.

laws about lawns

Losing Property For Failure to Mow the Lawn

This is crazy, but it goes even deeper.

Cities across America levy fines against homeowners that fail to mow or maintain their lawns.

Some cities, like those in Dunedin, Florida. Have gone as far as to foreclose and auction off properties when their owners refuse to maintain their lawns.

That’s right. Failure to keep your lawn maintained, and refusing to pay the fines, may result in your home being auctioned off. It seems that the laws about cutting grass are becoming more and more common.

But is this legal recourse just history reminding us of where lawns came from?

Legal History of the Lawn– What is the Bottom Line?

The legal history of lawn and property ownership has a surprisingly little documented history. We see through the legal theories of Locke, and even modern statutory laws, that the history of lawn care may have been much more important than we have yet recognized.

In an age where people need insurance for their landscaping to protect it from storms, it is needless to say the the history of the lawn, and the laws surrounding it, have come a long way!

I anticipate that one day we will uncover that maintaining lawns and property was indeed one of the original methods of land ‘ownership”. Though I have looked into the topic before, it seems that our written history does not recount this theory.

Only time will tell.