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Waiting at red light too long? Ky lawmaker has an idea

by Joe Arnold


Posted on February 18, 2014 at 6:05 PM

Updated Tuesday, Feb 18 at 6:19 PM

FRANKFORT, Ky (WHAS11) -- The frustration endured by motorists waiting at stubborn red lights could be remedied by legislation filed by a south-central Kentucky lawmaker.

House Bill 197 would amend state law to allow motorists to drive through an intersection against a red light under certain conditions. 

"We've all had it happen," said Rep. Michael Meredith (R) Brownsville. "Technology is great when it works, but when it doesn't, it's a bad situation sometimes."

The bill is supported by the Kentucky Motorcycle Association.  Motorcyclists say they are disproportionately affected by traffic sensors which do not recognize smaller vehicles.

"It happens more than you would think," said Brent Whitson of Simpsonville. "Sometimes, (I) try to wait it out until another car comes up so that they can trigger it."

"Sometimes you just have to take a right and do a 'U-ee' and come back around," he continued.  "You find alternatives."

While some traffic signals are on timers, many in Kentucky are equipped with sensors, the most common of which are inductive loops, wires installed in the pavement which create a small magnetic field.  When that field is interrupted by a vehicle, the loop sends a signal to the stoplight.

But, because motorcycles are smaller, they often don't trigger that signal.

"The motorcycles just do not have the mass to trigger the light," explained Jerry Whitson, Brent's father.  "We have the problem going straight through lights, we have the problem making left turns. Left turns end up being the worst ones."

"It's very frustrating," said Jolene Workman of Louisville.  "You're sitting there, watch it go through a whole cycle, watch everybody go through twice, and then you're still sitting there."

Meredith says it happened to him even as he drove a pick-up truck on Highway 127 in Frankfort.

"I waited there for probably ten minutes," Meredith recalled.  "And the light never changed."

Meredith's bill would allow a motorist to drive against a red light after it comes to a complete stop and the traffic light continues to show a steady red light for two minutes, or the traffic light completes two lighting cycles.  Any other approaching vehicles or people would have to be a safe distance away.

The bill also allows a driver to progress if the traffic light appears to be malfunctioning, or fails to detect the arrival of a vehicle, as designed.

"I would love to see something like that to where I knew I was okay," said Gordon Deapen of Louisville.

A spokesman for the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet says it is opposed to the bill for "safety reasons."

It's the second year Meredith has introduced it.  Motorcyclists may have to wait even longer.

But they're used to it.