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Craig Kelley
Craig Kelley
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Should Motorcycles Have A Special Exception To Red Lights?

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The Nebraska unicameral is currently exploring a proposed bill, introduced by Nebraska State Senator Paul Schumacher, which would allow motorcyclists to drive through red traffic lights if the rider had already waited at least two minutes for the light to change. Advocates of the proposed bill suggest that traffic sensors are not triggered as easily by lightweight motorcycles as other vehicles, causing a delay in the change of the light for motorcycles.

The bill, LB 85, was introduced and indefinitely postponed, however its proposal offers an interesting perspective regarding the ability of traffic lights to “sense” traffic weighing less than 1,000 pounds. An additional element of the proposed bill requires no other cars to be present as well as the two minute delay prior to travelling through a red light. Opponents of the bill argue that the law would be too difficult to enforce as it would be nearly impossible to keep track of the two-minute time requirement. In 2011, Illinois suggested a similar measure for cities with populations of less than two million. The Illinois law passed in 2012. South Carolina also passed a similar law in 2008. According to USA Today, at least seven other states already have similar regulations.

Although not everyone agrees with the length of time spent waiting for red lights, is there really a good argument to be made for allowing motorcycles special exceptions to the rules of the road? Will these types of proposed laws increase traffic accidents caused by violation of red lights? Will liability be more difficult to prove in cases involving a motorcycle which runs a red light? These are all considerations the Unicameral will have to consider in debating LB 85, should it be reintroduced in the future.

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  1. Kevin says:
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    The rationale is simple: from the point of view of a motorcyclist or bicyclist (who is likely to experience the same problem), many traffic-activate lights are defective and will *never* change for a road user on two wheels. Consider the case of a motorcyclist who enters a left-turn lane at a controlled intersection and waits through two light cycles without a change in his or her red arrow—the evidence at that point strongly suggests that unless a car happens to pull up behind him or her, that light is never going to go green. Codifying the reasonable response of then treating the defective light as a stop sign provides a work-around for the cyclist or motorcyclist while not adversely affecting other road users.