Starting July 1st, motorcyclists in Tennessee can legally run red lights.

From the talk-about-an-accident-waiting-to-happen department:

The Daily – Motorcyclists can run red lights July 1

KNOXVILLE—Beginning July 1, Tennessee motorcyclists can legally run red lights—if they stop first and “exercise due care’’—under a bill signed into law by Gov. Phil Bredesen.

Motorcyclists had complained they were forced to wait excessive periods of time at stop lights because sensors that control the lights did not recognize motorcycles, which are now made mostly of aluminum and fiberglass, not metal.

Wait a minute: Isn’t aluminum considered a type of metal?

While I can sympathize with the cyclists this still strikes me as a really bad idea. Still at least one other state, Minnesota, has a similar law and was the model for Tennessee’s version. I suppose if a bad idea is good enough for Minnesota then it’s good enough for Tennessee.

State cops don’t like the new law and neither does the Tennessee Department of Transportation. Can’t say I blame them, but it should at least make for a real bang-up time in Tennessee.

14 thoughts on “Starting July 1st, motorcyclists in Tennessee can legally run red lights.

  1. Actually, Les, this isn’t as dangerous as it sounds.  First of all, most traffic signals have multiple sensors in every lane, so if my bike doesn’t set off a sensor, then the car behind me will.  Hence, no need to run the light.  However, if I’m sitting at a light for a long time, and it refuses to change, that probably means that I’m all alone.  This happens quite often, actually, especially at night in suburban areas.

    I, and most bikers I know, have been running red lights for years.  The need has grown worse in the past ten years or so, as those magnetic triggers under the road have gone from rare to common to ubiquitous.

    For those bikers such as myself who live in a state where running red lights is inexplicably still illegal, here’s my suggestion for getting around it:  Put the bike in neutral, put your kickstand down, dismount, walk to the sidewalk, press the “pedestrian crossing” button, get back on the bike and wait for the light to change.

  2. Um, if there is absolutely no one around, doesn’t it stand to reason that there are no cops around?  Besides, if one is that concerned with the legality of the situation, then getting out of your vehicle with it still in a motoring lane is considered impeding traffic.  Just another example of how traffic laws don’t always mesh with common sense…

  3. I can see how this probably isn’t as dangerous as it first sounds, it just seems like the law might cause more problems than it solves as it’s a bit on the vague side. I mean what does “exercise due care” mean, specifically? Does that mean they waited 30 seconds? A minute? Two minutes? How long before they have court cases arguing over too strict an interpretation of that phrase being applied?

    I don’t have a problem with making life easier on the motorcyclists, but if you’re going to pass a law like that you should be as specific as possible to eliminate any guesswork by all the parties involved.

  4. I think it’s left open to interpretation b/c noone is sure what to make a minimum req for “due care”.  The intention, I’m sure, is to allow for someone to be busted if they cause problems by running the light, although it does leave it open to abuse.  Treating it like turning right on red would probably help clarify it – coming to a complete stop, yielding to all other traffic, etc. 

    I have been caught in a turn lane by myself on my bike due to a sensor.  It is a pain in the ass, and there was NO ped crossing button to push anyway.  It’s really annoying when the light isn’t programmed to go through ALL the directions for some minimum amount of time, regardless of traffic.  Believe me, I was WAITING for the damn arrow.

    Aluminum doesn’t count – only ferrous material is detectable.  Too scientific for that reporter, I guess.  There are magnets that you can buy and mount to the bottom of the bike engine, but since I’m already paying for the signal lights, I really don’t want to have to pay more money just to be able to get through a freakin’ light.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if some squid blew through a light b/c he thought it was legal now.

  5. As far as I know traffic laws and their handling (though it may not apply to the US) this would simply mean:

    You can do it. If you get hit or hit someone – its YOUR fault, because obviously you did NOT excercise due care.

    BTW: If have debated the point of ‘how
    to make a good law’-matter with my best friend (she’s a lawyer) often enough. You can make laws very specific – but then you only end up with very big lawbooks and and not that much more certainity, because there are always loopholes and exceptions someone can use.

    Better a simply written law whose intent is clear than one which tries but fails to adress ALL matters. Until we become perfect beings, we will need judges and lawyers to debate the actual way we use our laws – after the fact.


  6. This law is long overdue.  I hope something like this is in the works in Texas where it is somehow legal to ride without a helmet.

    I’ve actually received a ticket for running a red light due to this and took it to court and it was dismissed.  My attorney argued the case on the basis of a defective traffic sensor.  In most states, if a traffic signal fails to operate properly you are supposed to treat it as a four way stop.  In this case, the signal didn’t recognize my bike and I proceeded as if it were a four way stop. 

    I was nabbed because a cop saw the red-light reflecting down off my bike and helmet.

    No motorcyclists wants to be part of an accident and I’m surprised at how well we police ourselves at times.  Stupid motorcyclists that do not show ‘due care’ will be quickly weeded out, one way or another.

  7. I don’t see why anyone would complain about the new law.  Motorcyclists have been dealing with this problem for years.  And we have been running lights that won’t change for years.  There is no choice as long as a car doesn’t pull up behind you.  God forbid another motorcycle pulls up behind you, becuase then a car won’t be able to pull up and trigger the sensor for you.  The only difference between running a light now, and running a light a year ago is that we won’t get a ticket now.

  8. Speaking of running red lights…I was behind this SUV which had “ACTS 1:8” on the NC tag, a “Jesus loves you” tag frame and the “fish” symbol…this car was changing lanes without signaling.  I came up behind the SUV and followed him to the next light…he ran the red light!  I drove up next to him after the light turned green and honked my horn.  I told him that running red lights was an excellent form of witnessing…that he is known by his actions more than his words.  He asked for my forgiveness (but he has to live with himself not me)…I was suprised to see that it was none other than Rev. Franklin Graham, the son of Rev. Billy Graham.  I guess he is more special than any of us and can do as he pleases.

  9. I’ve got an idea of how a person might profit from this situation. Place digital cameras at potentially dangerous intersections that have a history of traffic accidents and record the fun. There are bound to be lots of good(bad) wrecks involving nimrods riding motorcycles who think that now they never have to stop for lights. Ummm… If you see a late night infomercial about grisly wrecks that’ll be me…

  10. Sheesh—everyone wants to jump in and tell me what is dangerous for me.  It ain’t the redlight running that worries me—it’s the goddam morons driving cages and talking in their cellphones, eating lunch, putting on makeup, etc.
    THESE are the people who make driving a motorcycle dangerous—not being a sitting duck in the middle of a goddam intersection waiting for some slacker to come along and run ya over from behind….

  11. With all respect, the number of accidents you’ll get running red lights is probably much, much higher than talking on a cell phone. We have traffic laws for a reason, and that’s a reason that seems to have been forgotten by arbitrarily removing one of the rules of the road for a particular group. That said, if you’re talking on a cell and you get into an accident, in addition for being responsible for the damage you cause, it’s driving with undue care and attention and/or negligence of the flavor of your choice.

    Believe it or not, the law backs you. On the other hand, if you think that sitting still at a red light is bad, and you’re gonna get run over from behind, it’s because someone’s running a red light. You see the irony there?

    At least they didn’t give motorcyclists the permission to run pedestrian crosswalks smile.

  12. Tell you what, Nez. I don’t care if you get your head bashed in if you ride without a helmet – provided that you foot your medical bills, if any, out of your own pocket.

  13. My only real problem with Nez’s comment is that it implies that there are no motorcycle riders out there who drive like idiots. For every idiot behind the wheel of a car I bet we could find a matching idiot driving a motorcycle.

    Incidentally, I’ve actually seen someone trying to talk on a cellphone while driving a motorcycle. I was stunned.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.