Running Red Lights

March 26, 2009

All Posts, News

Oklahoma is about to become the ninth state to allow motorcyclists to run a red light if it refuses to change.

Missouri passed a similar law two weeks ago. South Carolina passed a law allowing motorcyclists and bicyclists to run automated lights last May. Six other states, Arkansas, Idaho, Minnesota, North Carolina, Tennessee and Wisconsin also allow bikers to disobey the all-important light. Legislators in forty-one states are still just too stupid to get it.

The proposed revision to the Oklahoma statutes already passed as House Bill 1795. It was written by Representative Chuck Hoskin of Vinita and it is being sponsored in the state Senate by Randy Bass of Lawton.

The proposed law leaves the police a little wiggle room for harassment but it is not bad. It states that the rider of a motorcycle or bicycle facing any steady red signal may cautiously proceed through the intersection if the rider has first come to a complete stop and there is no immediate hazard of hitting a pedestrian or another vehicle and you know the light is not going to change.

What The Problem Is

Of course, you know the light is not going to change because when you look down at your feet you see a mass sensor. Mass sensors look like big circles in California. In some states they are big squares. In other places that are rectangles.

The idea behind mass sensors is to keep traffic flowing as efficiently as possible. They started to be built into roads after the oil crisis of 1973 and they truly represent the state of the art of technology in the mid-1970s. When the sensor detects the mass of an automobile stopped on top of it, it sends a signal to the nearest traffic light.

The trouble is, as every biker knows, mass sensors are blind to motorcycles. You can sit there until your piston rings melt and the light will never change. And, the growing line of cars behind you will have no idea what black magical thing you are doing to keep the light from changing but they will all know that you must be doing something. So they will all honk at you until you finally give up and run the light.

Which will be just about the time the traffic cop with the double digit IQ, you know, the smartest policeman in town, observes you breaking the law. And, $400 dollars later, after you go to all the trouble of putting on a tie, some down on his luck lawyer masquerading as a judge will sagely advise you that “the law is the law.”

Still Some Doubters

Oklahoma House Bill 1795 changes the law so that in Oklahoma, at least, the law will no longer be quite so ridiculous as it is now.

The bills enactment is still not yet exactly a slam dunk. The notion of democracy terrifies most authoritarians-who you may have noticed, are inclined to pursue careers in either education, politics or the law.

Before the Missouri bill passed earlier this month, a state representative named Jeff Roorda argued that allowing bikers to sometimes disobey the traffic computer “would create a double standard not seen in other traffic laws….There is no other law on the books where people can violate traffic laws because certain devices don’t work.”

Then a couple of days ago, a retired cop named Dan Browning told Channel 9 in Oklahoma City, “This type of statute (Bill 1795) scares me because it encourages violation of good driving habits.”

But, the true, actual fact, based on real, actual data, is that motorcycle accidents have not increased at all in any of the states that have passed similar laws.

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