Stoplight bill heading to House

Published 7:32 am Tuesday, February 12, 2019

A bill has passed the Mississippi State Senate that, if passed by the House and approved by the Governor, will allow the operators of motorcycles that do not trigger a traffic sensor to pass safely through a red light.

State Senator Angela Hill (R) of Picayune, is a sponsor of the bill, along with State Senators Sally Doty (R), Bob Dearing (D), Chris Massey (R) and Chris McDaniel (R).

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Hill said that the bill, entitled Senate Bill 2232, will allow a motorcycle rider to pass through an intersection, or make a turn at the intersection during a red light after “a reasonable amount of time,” only in instances where that intersection is governed by traffic light sensors that are unable to detect a motorcycle. Similar changes to traffic laws have been made in more than 16 other states, most recently Colorado. Other states with a comparable law include Wisconsin, Indiana, Kentucky, Idaho, Arkansas and Minnesota to name a few.

Hill said she and other sponsors of the bill have been asked by members of local and state motorcycle groups to make the change because at times motorcyclists are left waiting at a red light until a larger vehicle pulls up to the intersection.

The change to the current law, if passed, will allow motorcyclists at an intersection controlled by a sensor that does not detect the vehicle to proceed through the intersection only when it is safe to do so. If an accident occurs because the motorcyclist passed through the intersection when the path was not clear, they would be at fault since that operator did not have the right-of-way, Hill said.

Even though the bill passed the Senate, Hill is concerned about what will happen when it goes to the House. That concern is based on the contention she faced when it was discussed in front of the Senate.

“It passed along party lines. I don’t know why this should be a partisan issue,” Hill said.

However, if the bill makes it past the House, Hill feels certain Gov. Phil Bryant will support it.

“I think the Governor will sign it. He rides motorcycles,” Hill said.

Motorcyclists across the state are aware that some stoplights governed by sensors will not change if only a motorcycle is on the sensor. David Ervin, president Mississippi Blue Knights Chapter IX, has encountered a number of intersections locally and in other areas such as Hattiesburg where the light would not change for his motorcycle. He said he supports the bill, especially since Blue Knights International, a law enforcement motorcycle club, has a primary mission of promoting motorcycle safety. When a sensor does not detect his motorcycle, Ervin said he’s been forced to either take a right on red and make the block to turn around, or wait for another vehicle to trigger the sensor.

“It puts the motorcyclist in a situation where they have to run a red light or perform a complicated maneuver,” Ervin said.