Bill would let motorcyles through red lights

By Lindsey Berning, NewsNetNebraska

Nebraska motorcyclists and bicyclists may soon be able to legally run red lights. If no one’s around, that is.

A proposed bill would allow these drivers to pass though a red traffic light if it does not turn green after two minutes and there are no other oncoming vehicles.

“I had constituents who enjoy riding motorcycles saying ‘Look, the sensors don’t pick up our vehicles. We sit there, and we sit there, and we sit there and we have to wait ‘til some other vehicle comes around to trigger it. Either that or we have to make a conscious choice to break the law,’” Senator Paul Schumacher, who proposed the bill, said.

Locally, some question if the bill would help or hurt.

“I have a motorcycle and I don’t know if I would just go out into intersections in a red light,” University of Nebraska-Lincoln Police Department Officer Aaron Pembleton said. “If people are running red lights it’s one thing, but for you to run a red light for a person that has a green light — they’re moving pretty fast.”

Last year alone, there were about 300 of bicycle and motorcycle traffic accidents in Lincoln. Out of those, 83 percent involved reported injuries.

When asked if this bill could potentially increase accidents, Schumacher said it couldn’t.

“It can’t be an accident if nobody else is at the intersection,” he said.

But Pembleton disagrees. People might misjudge an oncoming car or not see it because of blind spots, he said, making the chances much higher than people might think.

“I think the odds of misjudging how fast people are going and the odds of an accident being more severe because they’re driving fast for a green light is pretty significant,” Pembleton said. “So I don’t know, it kind of scares me a little bit.”

And, Pembleton said, there’s more motorcycles on the road.

“More and more with the gas prices the way they are, we have seen an increase in motorcycles and like your ‘scooters’ — if you will — type things, on campus,” Pembleton said. “And we’ve always had a pretty high bicycle percentage, so they ride around campus a lot.”

Currently, the bill is in the Transportation and Telecommunication committee. If it goes through the normal course of bills, it could be law by October, according to Schumacher.

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