Traffic lights aren’t like they used to be some decades ago. While in most rural areas and low-traffic areas, the lights function based on a set-timer, most lights in urban areas and high-traffic areas are “smarter” than that, or somewhat!
If you’ve ridden enough, you’ve definitely come across a light that just wouldn’t turn green, even if the entire intersection is clear and you’re the only one standing there.
This is because these “smart” lights aren’t that “smart” afteral. These lights are designed to detect vehicles on each side of the intersection and turn red or green accordingly.
There are 2 main systems in place to makes these lights “smart”. One is an over-the-road system that uses motion sensors, lasers, cameras, etc. to “sense” the presence of a vehicle. The other is the in-road systems.
In-road systems again are of two main types. One that has a pressure plate and can sense the “weight” over it to determine whether a vehicle is standing or not. The other uses a system of electromagnets which can sense the presence of a metal body.
The problem with both the in-road systems is that they require a vehicle large enough to trigger their sensors. And often, motorcycles aren’t just large enough for them. Consequently, the system doesn’t detect the presence of a vehicle where you have yours, and never opens the light for your lane!
Being as close to the senors as possible obviously helps your odd. So, in case you’re across a light like that in the future, you may want to be closer. Generally, the location of the sensor can be identified by cut-marks on the road, which form as a result of cutting the roads and installing them.
However, sometimes these cuts aren’t visible, and as a motorcyclist you have no way to trigger these sensors. Result? You are stuck on the road till another vehicle comes by to help open the light for you. Or. You run a red light.
Thankfully, legislators across several states realized this pressing issue of bikers and formulated enactments know as the “Dead Red” Laws. These allowed for riders to cross an intersection even if the light is red, in wake of this problem.
Different states have different guidelines on how to deal with such an intersection, though. Here’s how the basic guidelines go in the different states.