Drivers stuck at a stoplight with no traffic in sight could get the legal green light to run a red light under legislation that the Utah Department of Transportation vigorously opposes.
The measure passed a House committee Tuesday and now awaits a vote by the full chamber.
Rep. Ken Ivory of West Jordan said he drafted the proposal after a constituent complained about waiting at an intersection where a red light wouldn’t change. He says the sensor apparently wouldn’t detect his car because of a lane shift for construction. The driver eventually went through but got ticketed, The Salt Lake Tribune reported .
Ivory argues it essentially makes a red light a stop sign if no other cars, bikes or people walking are nearby.
“This is a safe-on-red bill,” he said. “It’s not a run-a-red-light bill.”
But the Department of Transportation urged lawmakers to slam the brakes on what it considers an ill-conceived idea.
“We’re concerned about telling people it’s OK to go through a red light,” said Linda Hull, the department’s legislative services director.
About half of all crashes in urban areas occur at intersections, including 36 percent of all fatalities, Hull said.
She said all signals on state roads have some method to detect vehicles and most are connected to a central control room where agency employees can change them if needed.
Lawmakers have already approved a measure that allows bikes to run red lights and deal with stop signs like yield signs.
The transportation department said bikes and cars should not be compared.
“There is a very big difference between a 15-pound bicycle that goes through a red light and a 4,000-pound car,” Hull said. “If, on a bicycle, you go through a red light, you are really only endangering yourself,” but a car “endangers the other person who had a green light to go through that intersection.”
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