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Published on Friday, March 21, 2014

Motorcycles now able to run red lights in certain cases

SB 5141 is headed to the Governor for approval. The bill allows a motorcycle to proceed through an intersection, including making a left turn, if the motorcycle makes a complete stop and does not trigger a traffic-control signal after one cycle.

AWC has many concerns with the bill. For example, the term cycle is not defined. Many cities use timed sensors depending on the time of day. So, there are more cycles of a left-turn arrow in peak travel times. Other cycles are dependent on the induction loop or a camera sensing device. 

Since 2009, Washington law requires vehicle-activated traffic control signals routinely and reliably detect bicycles and motorcycles and that detection areas be clearly marked. Additionally, jurisdictions are required to have procedures for filing complaints when a sensor is not operating correctly. Our research indicates that most jurisdictions do not receive many of these complaints.

This potential new law does not mean that motorcycles can run red lights without consequences. The bill specified that this is not a defense in court and the driver has to show the detection device was inoperative due to the size of the motorcycle. In Washington, many sensors are on timers, triggered by camera-detection devices, or use induction loops that trigger the light when metal is present inside the loop. In other words, it may be difficult to prove a device was inoperable. 

If signed, the bill becomes law June 12 of this year. 

Categories: Transportation