Separate red-light rules? Not so fast

8:11 am March 20th, 2014

I haven’t owned a motorcycle in more than 20 years. But I still identify with the two-wheeled crowd that surely will be interested in a proposed new state law about red traffic lights. I’ll bet a lot of folks who stick to four-wheeled vehicles might have a thought or two, also.
Senate Bill 5141 would make it legal for motorcyclists to go through a vehicle-activated red light if, after stopping and waiting through one full cycle of the traffic signal, the system’s detection device apparently doesn’t recognize the motorcycle’s presence and give it a green light. Sponsors of the legislation say it will enable motorcycle riders to get back on their way when their bikes can’t trigger a light change.
When I checked last Friday, Governor Jay Inslee hadn’t signed SB 5141 into law, but his signature was expected by the bill’s supporters, according to Rebecca Gourley of the WNPA Olympia News Service, the bureau that reports on the Legislature for The Dispatch.
The legislation passed almost unanimously in the Legislature. Among the lawmakers giving it the thumbs-up were Sen. Randi Becker and Reps. Graham Hunt and J.T. Wilcox, the delegation from the Second District that includes south Pierce County.
But if it was up to the State Patrol, this game of red light-green light wouldn’t be played. Capt. Rob Huss testified against the bill during a hearing before a House of Representatives committee in February. He said the legislation raises safety concerns and may not even be necessary.
According to Huss, collisions and confusion among other motorists could occur when a motorcycle goes against a traffic signal. He also said there’s no hard evidence of how many traffic signals are defective or where they are. And he wasn’t aware of any more than a few motorcyclists who have brought it up as an issue.
I’m with him, and I’m guessing others in the motoring public are, too. I’ve sat in cars at red lights waiting seemingly forever for them to change, and just when I’m thinking I might have to take the law into my own hands and sneak through the interchange, it finally goes to green. I’ve also known a few motorcycle riders who have a bit of an outlaw attitude about rules of the road, and they’re the type I worry about possibly using their new red-light protection mistakenly or unnecessarily and putting themselves and other motorists at risk. One other thing: All motorists, bikers included, already have an out if a traffic signal isn’t working. They can treat it like a four-way stop and proceed when it’s safe, according to the Washington Driver Guide.
One rule for all sounds better to me than creating a special class of motorists who can think green when they see red.

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