Posted March 21, 2018 | Uncategorized
Utah lawmakers are considering passing a bill that would allow drivers to go through a red light after checking to see that no one is coming. House Bill 416 would give Utah drivers the ability to treat red lights more like stop signs. It outlines that a driver who is on a road with a speed limit lower than 55 miles per hour, during a time of the day when traffic is low, can drive through a red light after stopping and checking for other drivers, pedestrians, and bicyclists. The red light bill has become controversial and is leading many Utah residents to wonder how this new legislation might affect road safety.
The idea for House Bill 416 came from a situation where a man was stuck at a red light on his way to the airport. The man reported that there was no one around and the sensor was not picking up his car, so the red light was not changing. He decided to go through the red light and a police officer in a parking lot nearby pulled him over and gave him a ticket. After going to court and appealing the ticket, the man still could not get rid of the ticket. He approached Representative Ken Ivory about the issue and Ivory decided to sponsor a bill.
Proponents of the bill claim that it is common sense and there is no reason why you should have to wait at a light if there is no one around. Representative Ivory says that if the bill passes people will just treat empty intersections as 4-way stops. He argues that a red light simply becomes an extended stop sign at empty intersections and it is illogical to make cars wait longer if there is no safety risk.
The Department of Transportation is hesitant about House Bill 416. Around half of all crashes in urban areas happen at intersections, including 36% of fatalities. Intersections are extremely dangerous areas already and changing the laws about red lights at intersections could make them even more hazardous. They are concerned that giving people the opportunity to legally run a red light will pose a serious risk to road safety.
The state of Utah has one of the best, most advanced systems of traffic signals in the entire United States. All signals on state roads have devices that can detect vehicles. Some Department of Transportation officials are claiming that it would be better to work on improving the signals, as opposed to changing a traffic law. They are concerned that there is too much room for interpretation, and drivers may treat it as a right-to-run a red light law.
Ohio lawmakers passed a similar law last year. The Ohio red light law gives drivers the right to drive through a red light if it is malfunctioning. They must stop at the light for a reasonable amount of time to determine if it is malfunctioning, but, if it is not working properly and there are no cars around, they may drive through it. Once they choose to go through the red light, if it was actually not malfunctioning, the driver becomes liable for any accident that occurs. Driving instructors are reporting difficulties teaching new drivers this new law about red lights. They need to clarify to their students that the new law does not give them the right to run every red light.