You are cruising along on a beautiful evening ride – you come upon an intersection that is controlled by a traffic light. The light is red to you. You slow down and come to a gentle stop. You expect the light to change in perhaps 30 seconds or so. You adjust a glove – put your visor up and scratch an itch on your upper lip. The visor comes down and you are ready to proceed on this most beautiful ride. The light is still red and there you sit. Not for 30 seconds or even a minute – how about sitting there for hours? No way you say – you would simply go through the red light as long as the coast is clear. Now you are breaking the law and susceptible to being charged with a traffic citation.
Oftentimes street lights are controlled by magnetic sensors that control the traffic light. When the magnetic sensor is tripped by a car the light turns color and you are safe to proceed. Motorcycles, even my Harley, do not have enough metal to trip the magnetic sensor and the light never seems to change color.
Some states are changing the law to allow motorcycle riders to go through red lights. South Carolina passed such a law as recently as last month. North Carolina passed a similar law in 2007, Wisconsin (2006), Idaho (2006), Arkansas (2005), Tennessee (2003) and Minnesota (2002). This list is in a USA Today article titled “States green-light red-light laws for motorcycles.”
I agree with the passage of these laws because I have been there. First of all it is aggravating for the motorcyclist who sits and waits and waits. Secondly it is frustrating for the vehicle driver that must sit and wait behind the motorcyclist. This frustration can contribute to irrational movement like eventually darting across the intersection or the car creeping up on the back of the motorcycle forcing them to enter the intersection. It can get dangerous very quickly.
A better solution might be the Green Light Trigger. This is a simple device that straps onto the bottom of your motorcycle that emits a magnetic field and trips the magnetic sensor buried in the road surface and triggers the light to turn green. The only question remaining is the health hazard of driving with a perpetual magnetic field surrounding your body … maybe changing the laws are the best way to go!!