Traffic Law Would Help Washington Motorcyclists
January 31, 2013
Red Light, Green Light
Proposed Law Would Help Washington Motorcyclists at Traffic Lights
If you’re a frequent road rider, then you know how much of a paincoming to a stop at a traffic light can be—especially when there are few other vehicles on the road. You’re just cruising around, enjoying the day, when you have to come to a stop. There is no one else on the road, no cars stopped beside or behind you, and you’re stuck—stuck because your bike along isn’t enough to trip the sensor at the intersection. And so you wait, and wait, and wait… for the light to finally turn green.
Jimmy Lovaas, a reporter for The Olympian, recently wrote an article explaining how the traffic light triggers operate. Most intersections are equipped with a vehicle detection system. The light will change faster when a vehicle is waiting for it. Lovaas wrote that “these ‘demand-actuated’ systems are notoriously bad at detecting motorcycles because they rely on equipment to sense a disturbance in a magnetic field.” Motorcycles are not comprised of enough metal to create the necessary disturbance, so the system operates as if there were no vehicle waiting for the light to change.
However, it seems that the senate is looking to do something to provide some relief to riders stuck at red lights. On January 21, 2013, an addition was proposed to Senate bill 5141 and the corresponding House bill 1231. If passed, the change would allow motorcyclists to pass through a red light “after exercising due care.”
The precise wording of the Senate bill is as follows:
“Notwithstanding any provision of law to the contrary, the operator of a street legal motorcycle approaching an intersection, including a left turn intersection, that is controlled by a triggered traffic control signal using a vehicle detection device that is inoperative due to the size of the street legal motorcycle shall come to a full and complete stop at the intersection. If the traffic control signal, including the left turn signal, as appropriate, fails to operate after one cycle of the traffic signal, the operator may, after exercising due care, proceed directly through the intersection or proceed to turn left, as appropriate. It is not a defense to a violation of RCW 46.61.050 that the driver of a motorcycle proceeded under the belief that a traffic control signal used a vehicle detection device or was inoperative due to the size of the motorcycle when the signal did not use a vehicle detection device or that any such device was not in fact inoperative due to the size of the motorcycle.”
If the Senate bill doesn’t pass, riders will be forced to continue turning right when they find themselves stuck—potentially forcing them out of their way just to get through the light. Some companies manufacture products that are supposed to help the bike trigger the red light. The Green Light Trigger Hp, available at Eagle Leather for $29.95, uses magnetic technology to trip the vehicle detectors.
We, like riders all over Washington, will be waiting to see how this initiative progresses. We’re sick of waiting at red lights, too!