Is This A Good Idea? Motorcycles Allowed to Jump Red Traffic Lights In Illinois

Illinois Governor Pat Quinn vetoed a bill earlier this month that would allow motorcycles, after pausing a reasonable beat at red light, to go straight on through.

But both branches of the Illinois legislature  took the unusual step of overturning Quinn’s veto, and have now made the proposal into the law of the state.

The law as it was originally designed was intended to apply just to motorcycles, but after a raft of amendments, Illinois legislators added bicycles to the list as well. The new law was first proposed as a bill to give riders a break and help them avoid waiting at long red lights.

Sensors attached to stop lights are tripped by an electromagnet which often fails to detect motorcycles as they contain considerably lesser amounts of magnetic metals such as steel when compared to the volume of ferrous metals in a car, and the likelihood of a light turning green is reduced. This difference between cars and motorcycles was said to cause riders delays – or even force bikers to detour.

“I’ve sat at a stop light for several minutes several times before and been forced to make a right and come back around because it did not trip,” said Raymond Mucha, director of the motorcycle safety program at Illinois State University.

Mucha added that since aluminum and plastic make up the majority of materials used to construct a motorcycle, neither material would allow stop light sensors to be tripped in a timely manner, if at all.

“At the motorcycle safety program, we teach people how to deal with this problem, including putting the side stand down on the sensor,” said Erik Hanks, program coordinator of the state’s motorcycle safety program.

Hanks said there are several things bikers can do to trip the sensors, including adding a magnet to their motorcycles.

Critics of the law fear it could be abused by motorcyclists and lead to an increase in accidents. Since the law as written only requires individual riders to wait a “reasonable amount of time,” Hanks says the wording may leave open the possibility for some riders and drivers to take advantage of it.

“A lot of motorcycle accidents happen when a car turns left in front of the rider, and this creates the potential to have this happen more often,” Hanks said. “I can see both sides of the argument and my advice is to wait and see what this changes.”

Lawmakers in Kansas, Georgia and California are considering similar stop light legislation.

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