If you ride a motorcycle, this has happened to you. You pull up to a red light and it simply
never turns green. You wait patiently, listening to your bike idle, revving it from time-to-time just because it sounds so darn good, when one of the cars piled up behind you beeps you back into awareness. You wonder how long you’ve been sitting there and realize you have no idea; just that it has been too long. So, you take a right on red just to get moving again and forget all about it until it happens again. And then again.
Why does this happen? It’s because many traffic lights are programmed not to change until a vehicle is present and the sensors used don’t always register a motorcycle. Our legislature decided they needed to do something about this, and they did.
As of January 1st,a rider who stops at a red light “which fails to change to a green signal within a reasonable period of time” can “proceed, after yielding the right of way to oncoming traffic facing a green signal” as if he had stopped at a red light. (625 ILCS 5/11-306(c)3.5: only applicable in “municipalities with less than 2,000,000 inhabitants”)
How long is “reasonable”? Who knows?
But wait. That’s just the tip of the ambiguity iceberg. The law says the rider can only proceed if the reason the light failed to change is either “because of a signal malfunction” or “because the signal has failed to detect the arrival of the motorcycle.”
How can the rider possibly know why the light didn’t change?
And who has the burden of proof? Will the State have to prove in each case that the light was functioning properly and the sensor did detect the bike? Or are these issues for the rider to raise in defense?
Submitted by Brian D. Moore, Class of 1992.