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Malfunctioning Traffic Lights and Motorcyclists in Washington

Discussion in 'Motorcycle Talk' started by Gamuru, Jan 20, 2009.

  1. Gamuru

    Gamuru Big Brother

    About a week ago, Dusty (aka Bald Guy) suggested we write our legislators and urge them to support or sponsor a bill that would allow motorcycles to go through a red light that fails to detect them.

    I did. When I got home last night, I had a phone message from one representative wanting to talk to me in person and an email from Val Stevens office. The email is what I wanted to share with you because I think it explains why this bill keeps stalling in committee.

    In response to your email we looked into the issue of malfunctioning traffic lights and motorcyclists by contacting the Washington State Patrol.

    To help you with some background, this has been a long standing issue brought forward by motorcyclists. As you explained there are instances where the motorcycle or bicycle does not have enough metal/mass to trip the light sensors and they are unable to proceed in the direction/turn for that lane. Rather than go against a red light, the Washington State Patrol (WSP) advocates for the motorcycles to proceed in another lane adjacent to the one with the light problem and go another way or move forward and let a vehicle behind (if available) to trip the sensor. The WSP believes these methodologies are a safer way to deal with a sensor issue and sympathizes with your situation, but they may have concerns with some of the proposed solutions.

    In past sessions, there have been bills proposing that the motorcycles could proceed through a red light after it fails to turn green for a number of cycles, if the motorcyclist ensures traffic is clear.

    Effectively, the idea was proposing to treat the intersection as a stop sign if the light wouldn't change. The WSP has opposed this in the past for a few reasons. First is they believe the intersections that have signals are designed that way due to the traffic volume and flow. To change the rules for some and not others will cause problems when the motorcycle just goes when it is able. People won't expect it and there will be mistakes causing injury/death, which the WSP explains is a problem already.

    The WSP has struggled with motorcycle fatalities for the last few years due to increased ridership in part as a result of gas prices. Motorcycle related fatalities rose by 19% in 2008(75 in 2008 vs. 63 in 2007). There were 562 fatalities in 2007 and right now 510 total traffic fatalities in 2008.

    Further, they have tracked the causes of motorcycle collisions. In 2008, of the 75 crashes involving motorcycles, 76% were caused by the motorcycle operator and the remainder by the passenger car. The main causes have been lane errors, DUI, speeding, and inattention. They have not had a recent experience of any fatality where a motorcycle was rear ended.

    The WSP Sympathizes with you, but allowing a vehicle to proceed under a red light will decrease safety in their opinion and is not the answer for your situation.

    This year, I have heard the bicycle community is proposing a bill that may have a solution, but I have not seen a bill yet.

    Thank you for bringing this issue to my attention. I trust you will find this information helpful. In the meantime, we will look for the bill being proposed.

    Senator Val Stevens
    39th Legislative District
    So, it would seem that it is the Washington State Patrol that keeps killing this bill. I understand what the WSP is saying. I'm not buying their excuse that it creates an unexpected situation, because, if passed, it would be a new rule of the road. This exception would be no different than the law allowing transit busses to pull out into traffic whether their way is clear or not. And I don't see the correlation between fatality statistics and being stuck at a traffic light. Does one have anything to do with the other?

  2. a suggestion would be for all lights at non-mulitple lane intersections to offer a flashing yellow light which would allow for one to proceed with caution to both cages and bikes.

  3. I have only experienced this with left hand turn lanes, cuzz those are the ones that aren't on a red/green cycle and only turn when someone is there. They frustrate me as well, I just move up and wave the person behind me forward route. Seems to work other than you get some ignorant people that dont get what you mean(old men in plaid hats).

    My problem with this is that if the lane to your right is making left hand turns onto your street in the opposite direction they may not be aware that you are well infront of the stop line and Iv had some very close calls.

    I have seem some "magnets" on ebay that you put on the bottom of your bike and is supposed to trip those left hand turn lanes. They may not be magnets im not sure. I havn't bought any and dont know anyone that have so....?

    just my 2cents
  4. Isn't it equally as unsafe to make a right handed turn from a left turn lane when the light won't change and the WSP or OSP recommend making a right instead if the light won't change...
    If you know that your motorcycle isn't gonna trip a light, maybe you should just plan for that instead...
    Also, if there's no traffic around that'll trip the light and it's late enough, I scan all directions for the fuzz and just go
    I've got a light by my house that i can't trip, and late at night, instead of making a left, I go right and then turn around about a block up where it's easy and legal to do so
  5. I've actually benn noticing these pop up more and more around town...They're nice to have!
  6. so we can't be trusted to go when its safe? what about free right turns, how can we be trusted there? if we aren't able to make observations, and judments based on those observations, should we be driving/riding at all?

    on my way to work in the morning (4:am), i run 2 lights and 5 stop signs. i slow down, look around, no people or cars or cops, and go. its perfectly safe, although completely illegal. i'm sure one day (maybe soon now that i've announced it on the web) i'll get a ticket for it, and i'm ok with that. is getting a ticket really that big a deal?
    Last edited: Jan 20, 2009
  7. Not unless its your 4th in less that a year.....*looks around* I just took my fourth to court week before last and beat it:thefinge: *Woot for me!!!*:thefinge:
  8. When you consider the jacking of insurance premiums, yes it can be a very big deal.
  9. That only happens if your insurance finds out *Muahahahaha*
  10. I also sent letters, and got two responses back;

    It can't hurt to keep letting them know our thoughts. It's ridiculous to be put in the situation where any move we make is illegal. If you are stuck at a protected left turn that wont change there is nothing you can currently do without being "illegal". And the suggestion to swing right from a stopped position across however many lanes of moving traffic within feet of an intersection is really bad IMO. Isn't it illegal to change lanes within a certain distance of an intersection? Multiple lanes at once? Failure to signal within 100 feet(since you were previously signaling left)? If an officer sees you in this situation and writes the ticket for running the red light who's to say he wouldn't have written you up for any number of the laws you would break trying to take a right instead? I would hope that even though they can't publicly admit it they would use their common sense judgment on something like this.
  11. I find this hard to believe.

    Yes, it affects how much you pay for insurance.

    I've been under the impression this whole time that if the light didn't change you can go on the next cycle and that's how I will continue to live my life regardless of legislation. It just makes sense.

    I will on occasion motion for the car behind to get closer to me if I think the light didn't trip.
  12. When I moved up from Georgia me and my roommate noticed Washignton seems to have this fear of left turns. I've rarely seen so many intersections where you could only go on a turn light (only in one other state, New Mexico I beileve, where they made it law you could only turn left on a turn light).

    What's worse is that occasionally they do let you turn left on green (not green arrow) on intersections where I could see it being justified to be arrow only. And other intersections where there is no reason I shouldn't be able to take a left on a green with arrow only. I mean whoever did traffic design here really needed to be fired (I'm serious. This is not the only glaringly obvious issues I've seen with traffic design. No, I'm not an expert, but it really doesn't take an expert to see some of the really stupid things they have done with traffic design).

    And I think it is laughable they think it's safer for me to pull back into traffic from the turn lane rather than take a left when it is clear. It is easier to see what is in front of you and if it is clear than what is behind you (where you just have the area of your mirror and having to crane your neck around to see).

    And trying to tell people behind you to pull up I find works 25% of the time. Most of the time I pull up, gesture for people behind me to move up, and they just don't get it and think they are being polite by keeping their distance from me (people here are frikkin scared drivers. I hate it).
  13. jezterr

    jezterr Retired Admin

    another reason wsp sucks ass. you're cops. enforce the law. don't create it.
  14. if 1 ticket kills your rates, you already have too many tickets, or a crappy insurance company.

  15. That's awesome that they responded! Just seeing that I think i'll write them tonight. I've never gotten a ticket but there are a few intersections in spokane that never trigger for me!
  16. Isurance doesn't find out about your tickets till you have an accedent, file a claim, or have to re negotiate your contract. Get all the tickets you want, as long as you dont eat sh*t they'll never find out.

    I mean I realize when my year contract is up there is a VERY strong chance of them seeing my tickets. But ill deal with that hurdle when it comes. Dairyland sucks anyway.
  17. it can vary, but my experience has shown that as well. and sometimes they don't even check when you renew for the year, unless your agent is trying to get you lower rates. i had dairyland for awhile, when i was younger and had a worse driving record. i didn't think they were terrible, never had to make a claim with them though.
  18. I don't. :angry7: Most of those are single-vehicle. Watch the forum and see how often people post up crashes and how often, of those, they're hit by a car.
  19. Whats Dairyland like rate wise on our bikes? I'm paying ~$87/mo full coverage +uninsured/underinsured, $500deductables through GEICO (bleh). I've called progressive and Safeco, they wanted ~150/mo and ~200/mo respectively.

    Edit. I'm 25, Single, clean record.
    Last edited: Jan 20, 2009
  20. I pay $104 10 out of 12 months for full coverage+UIM. Thats for under 25 un married male, I had no tickets at the time.
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