On July 20, 2016, Governor Wolf approved legislation that would allow motorists to proceed with caution through a red light if the vehicle presence is not detected by the signal’s detection system and fails to change to green. Act 101, more commonly know as the “ride on red” law gives anyone on the road the option to go through red lights as long as they use commons sense and caution. The law became effective on September 20, 2016.
Act 101 was introduced by Representative Stephen Bloom (R – Cumberland County) as an amendment to Title 75 (Vehicles) to create a solution for a common issue faced by motorcycle and pedalcycle riders. The intent was to allow drivers of motorcycles and pedalcycles stuck at a standstill because traffic control signals that utilize a vehicle detection system are not always able to detect motorcycles and pedacycles due to their smaller size. As a result, those cycle drivers would be forced to wait until a larger vehicle arrived and was detected by the traffic control device. Impatient riders would tire of the wait and unlawfully proceed through the intersection.
Representative Bloom’s original proposal was to allow the driver of a motorcycle or pedalcycle to proceed through the intersection only after exercising due care as provided by law. If the vehicle detection system failed to recognize the vehicle and the rider had come to a full and complete stop, the rider would make sure it was safe to continue, and proceed with caution through the intersection.
The amendment to §3112 of the motor vehicle code states, in pertinent part, if a traffic-control signal is out of operation or is not functioning properly, including, but not limited to, a signal that uses inductive loop sensors or other automated technology to detect the presence of vehicles that fails to detect a vehicle, vehicular traffic facing a Red or completely unlighted signal shall stop in the same manner as at a stop sign, and the right to proceed shall be subject to the rules applicable after making a stop at a stop sign as provided in section 3323 (relating to stop signs and yield signs).
The law does not state how long a driver should wait before assuming the light is not operating and proceed through the malfunctioning or unresponsive stop signal. Theoretically, a driver is allowed to treat the malfunctioning or unresponsive stop signal as a stop sign and the driver may use his judgment to proceed through the intersection with caution.
The problem is not every driver has the same level of patience or judgment and some may see the law as a “free pass” to go through the light. Moreover, the law does not differentiate rural areas from more congested urban areas of the state. Drivers may now argue the red light was taking too long to change and proceed through a busy intersection under the assumption it was malfunctioning. In busier traffic areas, it may create the potential for more traffic violations as well as more accidents. Impatient drivers may elect chose to go through an intersection with a properly functioning traffic signal risking their lives as well as the lives of unsuspecting oncoming drivers powerless to avoid collisions.
According to the National Coalition for Safer Roads, more than 3.7 million drivers in the United States ran a red light in 2014. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety says 709 people were killed and an estimated 126,000 were injured in crashes that involved red light running that same year.