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Motorcycle "Red Light Running" Bill Still Alive in Virginia (VA) Legislature

A bill to allow motorcycle, scooter, moped and bicycle riders to proceed through red lights after waiting a long period for the signal to turn green is on track for passage in the 2011 session of the Virginia Legislature. Introduced by Republican Del. Tag Greason of Loudon County, VA, HB1981 aims to reduce inconvenience to bikers and other drivers by moving vehicles too small and lightweight to trigger traffic signal sensors through intersections.

Greason casts his proposal to significantly change red light laws in the commonwealth as a safety issue. He told the website Loudoni on January 19 that motorcyclist and bicyclists sitting at intersections face an increased risk for rear-end collisions. He also noted that South Carolina recently enacted a law to let two-wheel vehicles go through stop signals.

Greason's proposed law specifies that "the driver or rider may proceed through the intersection on a steady red light only if the driver or rider

  1. comes to a full and complete stop at the intersection for two complete cycles of the traffic light or for two minutes, whichever is shorter,
  2. exercises due care as provided by law,
  3. otherwise treats the traffic control device as a stop sign, and
  4. determines that it is safe to proceed."

That all seems fine on its face. After all, it does seem problematic to leave motorcycle and bike riders idling at red lights, not to mention the hassle car or truck riders can experience when sitting behind a two-wheeler a traffic signal sensor fails to recognize.

On the other hand -- and this is a huge "but" -- accidents at intersections are a leading cause of injuries and deaths to motorcyclists, and only around 5 percent of those serious wrecks involve rear-end collisions. Even riders with green lights and clear rights-of-way face dangers of getting hit and killed by cars and trucks when going through intersections.

Having represented victims of motorcycle accidents, I cannot support any efforts to make biking less safe. And even though Greason's bill enjoys broad support from riders and his fellow legislators, I can only see the new rule creating more injuries and fatalities, especially since motorcyclists and bicyclists will be riding across roads and streets on which cross traffic has green lights.

It seems there must be a better technological fix for the sensor issue.

EJL

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