Late last month Indiana joined 15 other states with the passing of house bill 1080, better known as the “dead red” law.
The bill, authored by local state representative Mike Karickhoff (R), authorizes motorcycle, moped, and bicycle riders who fail to trigger a traffic signal at an intersection to drive through a red light, so long as the rider first stops for two minutes and then proceeds cautiously.
“Many traffic signals cannot detect motorcycles or bicycles, causing frustration and potential danger for the driver and for other motorists on the road,” said Rep. Karickhoff.
Karickhoff said when motorcyclists were left waiting at a light they hadn’t triggered, they were left with a few choices, none of which were ideal.
“When the signal isn’t triggered, that leaves the motorcyclist with the choice of, one, disregarding the signal anyhow, two, waiting for a car to pull up behind them and get on the scale. Then the motorcyclist has to pull their wheel out into the intersection to make room for that car. Or, they can make a right turn and drive a mile or so out of their way until they can turn and go back the other way.”
The bill passed 84-10.
The other states that have “dead red” laws are Arkansas, Idaho, Kansas, Nevada, Minnesota, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin, and California.
Each state has its own variation of the law. Some include bicyclists; some don’t. Some require the motorcyclist to wait one minute, some two minutes, and some “a reasonable about of time.”
“We tried to take what we thought was the best of the other state bills and apply it here,” he said.
Howard County Sheriff Steve Rogers said law enforcement’s concern with the passing of the law is that people need to use caution.
“We really want motorcyclists to be very careful when they do that because they are going against a red light, meaning the other people going the cross direction will have a green light,” he said. “We certainly want motorcyclists to obey that law to the sense that there is a specific amount of time they have to wait.”
Additionally, since the law is so new, Rogers said he hopes to bring awareness of it to all drivers.
“All people who drive cars also should understand the law because they’re going to see motorcyclists at some point ignore a red light, and as long as they’re doing it safely, it is permissible by law,” he said.
As motorcycle season is here, Rogers also reminded all drivers to use caution and be on the lookout for motorcycles.
“Law enforcement always cringes or braces itself [as motorcycle season starts] because we know that we’re going to have some mishaps,” he said. “Motorcycles are not as well seen as other vehicles, and people have a tendency sometimes to ignore them and pull out in front of them.”