“Rolling smoke” is a safety hazard to other drivers on the road, law enforcement officials say.

A reader asked why law enforcement officers allow drivers to “roll smoke” on the road since a state law prohibits it. “Rolling smoke,” or “rolling coal,” is when a diesel engine has been modified to increase the amount of fuel going into the engine, causing large amounts of black or gray exhaust to release into the air.

The particular state law, KRS 189.020, says that “equipment of vehicle not to be a nuisance or menace. Every vehicle when on a highway shall be so equipped as to make a minimum of noise, smoke or other nuisance, to protect the rights of other traffic and to promote the public safety.” The law went into effect on Oct. 1, 1942.

KSP Post 12 spokesman Trooper Bernis Napier said that a trooper’s presence, usually, sways vehicles from “rolling smoke.”

“I don’t feel like officers or troopers allow that,” Napier said.

Napier said that if a vehicle takes off carefully after stopping at a stop sign or traffic light, it may have some smoke, but not enough to call for concern or be a violation. The problem is when vehicles create enough smoke to impair other drivers around them.

Napier said KSP has issued 30 violations in Franklin County and the six other counties Post 12 serves for “vehicle nuisance” in the past year and eight of those were specifically for “rolling smoke.”

“Vehicle nuisance” could refer to other issues, like a loud muffler. More of the 30 violations could have been for “rolling smoke,” Napier said, but the narrative of the reports did not specifically mention the term.

Frankfort Police Capt. Chris Quire said he sees vehicles “rolling smoke” often in Franklin County. He thinks some drivers do it on purpose near other vehicles to obstruct the vision of other drivers. It causes safety concerns on the road, he said.

Quire said vehicles “rolling smoke” is not the highest priority on FPD’s list. However, if an officer monitoring traffic sees it and has time, he or she will issue a citation.

“It’s like any other law we try to enforce,” Quire said.

Quire said the driver of a vehicle “rolling smoke” can be cited for “improper equipment” because something has been done to the vehicle to make it able to “roll smoke.” Vehicles don’t come from the factory like that, he said, adding that the repercussions of the citation are determined by the court.

Circuit Clerk Amy Feldman said the court has seen 69 improper equipment violations since Jan. 1, 2017, but it is unclear how many of those are for “rolling smoke.” Feldman said the violation could be cited if a car has a broken speedometer or a broken tail light.

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