This past May, Georgia General Assemby passed the “Motorcycle Mobility Safety Act,” also known as Senate Bill 76. This legislation included language for both motorcyclists and bicyclists to allow them to carefully enter intersections and go through red lights under limited circumstances. The light weight of bikes and cycles can be an issue at some intersections. Given the small size and light weight of many bikes and almost all cycles, engineers have yet to alter many traffic lights in Georgia to ensure that lights will change to green. Under the SB 76, a rider would be responsible for determining whether or not it was safe to enter the intersection. If a Georgia bike crash resulted, the accident would be evidence that necessary caution was not used.
Known as the “dead red” bill, many cyclists and bike riders were involved in helping to get SB 76 through to law. Governor Deal vetoed the legislation. In his veto statement he expressed his “sympathetic concern” for riders in these circumstances, but also stated that allowing bicycles and motorcycles to pass through these intersections would present confusion to motorists. He also expressed safety concerns about a provision of the bill that would have eliminated the 15 inch height controls on motorcycle handlebars. He noted that increased height can make it more difficult to control and steer a motorcycle. Ultimately, he vetoed the bill because given that 13 percent of Georgia’s fatal accidents involve bicyclists and motorcyclists, the bill would not improve Georgia’s road safety.
Some states have enacted laws to deal with these “dead red” zones. These stops are also “Idaho Stops,” since Idaho is one state that has had such legislation on the books for several decades. There are a few states which have also enacted the type of law that the Georgia legislature passed, but by far most states do not have such provisions. The Governor’s veto of the legislation and the Georgia cycling community’s support of it, demonstrates the ongoing dialogue necessary for greater sharing of the road. Public right of ways allow use by trucks, cars, motorcycles and bikes. The question continues to be how all these vehicles can safely travel.
One excellent resource for understanding and participating in this dialogue is the League of American Bicyclists. The League has been in existence since the 1800’s and holds an annual summit in Washington, D.C., which will be held in March. The League does not take a position on dead red laws. They advocate that riders adhere to their state’s rules of the road. They also note that the inconvenience of traffic lights that do not detect bicyclists can be dealt with using engineering solutions including bike lanes and signal adjustments.
Scholle Law supports the biking community wholeheartedly and we are here for you when you need us. We understand the disappointment in the veto of a bill that so many in the community were hoping would be enacted and their concern that insurance companies were able to influence the outcome in Georgia for now. We deal with insurance companies every day in our law practice and fight for the rights of those injured on our roads and highways. Although we do not have a position on this legislation, but we hope that over time, there will be a resolution that supports safety and the riding community.