Motorcycle Red Light

A common problem for many motorcyclists happens at a red light. You pull up to an intersection and wait, but the light never turns green for you. This can be extremely time-consuming and frustrating as a rider, but is there anything you can do about it? There are some different riding techniques you can try when pulling up to a red light, as well as a few add-ons for your motorcycle that may help. Many states also have laws pertaining to this issue that benefit riders.

What makes a red light turn to green when a car pulls up? When you arrive at an intersection, you can usually see lines or grooves in the pavement in the shape of a rectangle. This means there is a sensor in the ground that detects a vehicle. The sensor works by using an electrical current that flows through wires placed beneath the road. When a car stops on top of the sensor, it changes the electromagnetic field in the wires and triggers a control box in the traffic light. This lets the light know someone is waiting to go through the intersection. Since motorcycles have less conductive material than a car or a truck, it usually will not trigger the light and you’ll be stuck there.

As far as riding techniques to help trigger the light, it is recommended that when you pull up to the sensor in the road, you should align your wheels with one of the sensor lines in the pavement. This helps by putting the largest amount of conductive material on your motorcycle above the sensor. If there is a car behind them, some riders also try to move as far forward at the light as possible and signal to the car to move forward, so that its wheels are far enough forward to trigger the sensor.

Many motorcycle products have been manufactured to try to fix this problem as well. Most of these products use magnets to try to trick the sensor in the road, but these have been proven to be ineffective. There is one company called Signalmatic that has developed a new technology to help riders. They make a motorcycle attachment called VS-II that connects to your bike’s brake light system and points at the ground. When you hit the brakes on your bike, the VS-II sends a magnetic pulse to the traffic light sensor and lets it know there is a vehicle waiting to go through the intersection.

If you don’t have luck with using riding techniques or products like the Signalmatic VS-II, some states have laws that let you pass though a red light on a motorcycle, after a certain amount of time of waiting. In Wisconsin, a motorcycle “is permitted to run a steady red light after making a complete stop and waiting at least 45 seconds and then yields the right–of-way to any vehicular traffic or pedestrians using the intersection.” Illinois riders must wait 120 seconds before proceeding through a red light. While some other states also have similar laws, it is best to check with your local municipality to see what laws apply to you as a rider.

Hupy and Abraham, S.C. has been promoting motorcycle awareness with the “Watch For Motorcycles” message for decades. The firm has been handing out a “Red Light Card” at hundreds of motorcycle and community events to help spread the word to riders about what to do if they are stuck at a red light. You can receive your FREE “Red Light Card.”

Jason F. Abraham
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Helping car accident and personal injury victims throughout Wisconsin, Illinois and Iowa since 1993.