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New Indiana law lets bikers proceed with caution at red lights

Tuesday, July 1, 2014 - 8:30 am

A new Indiana law that goes into effect today hopes to ease common frustrations of cyclists and motorcyclists alike.

Dubbed the “Dead Red Law,” and authored by state representative Mike Karickhoff (R-Kokomo), the new law allows motorcycle, moped and bicycle riders who fail to trigger a traffic signal at an intersection to drive through a red light, so long as the rider first stops for two minutes and then proceeds cautiously.

Michael Joyner, Fort Wayne Police Department spokesperson, said the law is addressing a big issue for riders.

“You have to wonder what is going through the mindset of a cyclist or motorcyclists sitting there before this law was enacted. Do they run the light? Do they wait for a motorist? It's a good law. Our concern is that there is a requirement for the cyclists or motorcyclists to wait for two minutes before they proceed with caution, so the responsibility falls on that person to do what is required in the law and that's for good reason. Two minutes is not a significant amount of time to wait before proceeding,” he said.

The law addresses an old problem for riders: the lack of mass needed to trip the street light detector underneath the pavement which tells the signal that a car is waiting for a green light. Before the law, riders would have to wait for a car to roll up from behind to activate the signal or just ride through the red light when they know the coast is clear.

By passing the law, Indiana joined 15 other states with the passing of house bill 1080. The other states that have “dead red” laws are Arkansas, California, Idaho, Kansas, Nevada, Minnesota, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin.

Each state has its own variation of the law. Some include bicyclists while others don't. Some define “a reasonable about of time” or leave it up to each individual to decide.

Joyner said the new law is helpful to Fort Wayne's growing population of cyclists.

“The authors of this law were listening to cyclists who were doing the right thing by waiting for light but they realize that's an issue and they needed to rethink this. It's was an issue and they did something about it. But it all comes down to the cyclists and motorcyclists doing the right thing. The safety issue is paramount here. You want to wait your two minutes because typically the light will cycle within that period of time, but more importantly while you are waiting there for that amount of time your scanning traffic,” he said.