New Illinois Law Allows Motorcyclists to Run Red Lights

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A new Illinois law will allow motorcyclists to go through a red light if they wait at that light for more than two minutes without the light changing.  The new law, which also applies to bicycles, and which took immediate effect, was signed by Illinois Governor Pat Quinn in July of this year.

Many stoplights in Illinois use magnetic sensors to alert the traffic signal that a vehicle is present, and trigger the sensor so that the light will turn green.  However, motorcycles are often too small to trigger the sensor, and motorcyclists can be stuck at a red light waiting for other cars to appear and trigger the light.

The new law seeks to remedy the situation by requiring that a motorcyclist wait at least 120 seconds before proceeding, but then allowing motorcyclists to proceed through a red light if the light has failed to change after that time.  Motorcyclists must also have a “clear roadway” ahead of them before riding through the light.

It’s unclear what effect this new law may have on potential liability for motorcyclists who proceed through a red light and are then involved in an accident.  In theory, any motorcyclist who proceeds after waiting the appropriate amount of time has not violated any laws, but in practice, it may be difficult to establish the amount of time that a motorcyclist has waited at a particular light, and whether he or she has actually complied with the rules of the road.

It’s also important for Illinois motorcyclists to understand that this new law doesn’t apply everywhere in the state.  The new “red light” law only applies in municipalities with fewer than 2 million people, meaning that it is not applicable in Chicago.

Illinois’s passage of this law follows an emerging trend of states which allow motorcyclists to proceed through red lights.  At least eight states now have the law in some form.  In addition to Illinois, those states include North Carolina, South Carolina, Wisconsin, Idaho, Arkansas, Tennessee, and Minnesota.

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