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New Washington law allows motorcycles to run some red lights

Northwest Guardian

Published: 04:11PM June 26th, 2014

A new Washington motorcycle law is giving bikers a reason to get revved up.

The law makes it legal for motorcyclists to drive through a red light if the bike doesn’t trigger the light detection system.

“Really what it is basically saying is that motorcycles a lot of time because of their weight won’t trigger the lighting system,” Joy Fowlkes, manager Safety Directorate’s Operations Branch, said. “So they are allowed to go ahead and go through the intersection on the red if that light does not trigger.”

Bill 141, which was signed by Governor Jay Inslee in March and went into effect on June 12, will be similarly enforced at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

According to the law, motorcycle riders are required to come to a complete stop at the red light and wait a complete cycle of lights before proceeding forward.

The law states that motorcycle riders must use caution when driving forward or turning left.

The law only applies to traffic lights with detection systems. Detection systems, called induct-ion loops, are wire coils installed in the roads surface to establish whether a vehicle is on the road-way.

Directorate of Public Works Transportation Systems Manager Sallie Donahue said all traffic lights on JBLM are triggered by video detection came-ras or detection loops.

However, Donahue noted that some of the detection loops are inactive and are waiting repairs. But motorcycle riders shouldn’t worry about trying to determine whether a detection system is working or not.

Staff Sergeant Jennifer Person, traffic management collision investigator, said as long as the driver waits the full cycle of the lights then they are still in compliance with the law. If a driver believes a video detection or detection loop is no longer working they should call in a work order with the service order desk.

Person said motorcyclists would still be cited if they run a red light that does not have a detection system or if the rider does not wait for a full cycle of lights. Another issue that can land motorcyclists in hot water is the position of their bike.

According to the law failure to position a motorcycle in a way that would trigger the light is not a justification for running a red light. Fines for running a red light can reach a maximum of $250.

There are laws similar to Bill 5141 in 14 states, but motorcycle riders should note that Oregon is not one of them.