According to an article in the Salt Lake Tribune, lawmakers this legislative session are considering a bill that would allow Utah drivers to run red lights during low travel times after coming to a complete stop. The House Transportation Committee approved the bill 5-2. The bill will now go before the entire House for a vote. According to the sponsor, Representative Ken Ivory, “This is a safe-on-red bill. It’s not a run-a-red-light bill.”
The bill gained its genesis from a concerned constituent, Brian Tenney, after he was anxiously awaiting the light to change. According to Tenney, the light probably did not detect his car so he decided to run the red light. A police officer spotted the vehicle and issued a ticket. Tenney challenged the citation in court, but the judge informed him, “There is no common-sense measure to this law. You ran the red light, so you get the ticket and pay the fine. . . . If you don’t like it, I suggest you get with your representative.” Tenney did exactly that.
Representative Ivory has reported hearing several other constituents sharing similar situations. He emphasized the fact that the bill would require drivers to come to a complete stop, but allow them to traverse the intersection if no other vehicles were present. As the Salt Lake Tribune points out, it would mostly treat a red light as a stop sign.
The Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) has voiced their concerns over the bill. Linda Hull, the legislative services director for UDOT, stated, “We’re concerned about telling people it is okay to go through a red light.” Hull also pointed out that nearly half of urban crashes happen in intersections. This statistic includes 36 percent of all fatalities.
The article in the Tribune reports that Utah is a state with some of the most advanced systems of traffic lights in America. Each signal on a state road has a method for detecting vehicles. Almost all are connected to a central control room wherein a UDOT employee can manually change the signals if necessary. According to Hull, UDOT is creating a system that will automatically report any problems. She advocates allowing improvements in technology to improve the problem.
This bill is not the first of its kind. The Utah House has already approved HB58, which allows those riding a bicycle to run red lights and treat stop signs like yield signs in smaller intersections. This bill is currently being considered by the Senate and has been placed on their 2nd Reading Calendar.
This bill would fundamentally change the way we drive in Utah. Here at the Advocates Law Firm, we advocate safety. Understandably, it is frustrating to be anxiously waiting at a red light. However, we also understand that, if people are not careful, this bill could allow for many cases of abuse and place some people in danger. Our firm will not be taking a stance on this bill. However, this bill does raise some interesting questions about the role of safety. In past blog posts, we have written on bills and laws that can challenge the gray areas of law, and this bill is indeed one of them. What is the right amount of safety? Is it better to allow people do what they want and allow for potential abuses or is it better to prohibit a behavior entirely because the possible damage is simply too significant? We do not have satisfactory answers to these questions. We will just have to wait and see what our elected representatives think about this matter.