How long must a motorcyclist wait at malfunctioning signal?

The in basket: Bruce Brockett of Poulsbo writes, “I ride a motorcycle early most mornings when traffic is light. I travel north through Poulsbo on Highway 305, and make a left turn onto Bond Road from the left turn lane at the traffic light.

“Many times I am the only one in this lane, or first in line, to turn. The traffic control (either a camera or the pressure sensor – both are there) doesn’t recognize me. I sit through several light changes, then finally have to run the red light.

“Fortunately, the traffic is light. I have tried stopping at different positions in the lane. Eventually, sometimes, someone will line up behind me in an auto, but still won’t trigger the turn signal unless they pull up tight behind me, which most are reluctant to do.

“I know it is legal for me to go through the red in some situations, but would prefer that the light be corrected. Also, sometimes I use this signal at times when it is very busy, and it is not comforting to try to guess where the next car is coming from.”

He said he isn’t clear on the circumstances and/or duration of the signal malfunction that permits passing through the red under a change in the state law (RCW 46.61.184) made a year or two ago.

The out basket: The duration is one complete cycle of the light, in which all movements controlled by the signal would have had an opportunity to turn green. That’s not much help if only one direction stays green and no traffic approaches from a direction where it would be expected to trigger the light.

And the law has a vexing condition that makes use of it chancy. It essentially says if it’s an intersection without vehicle detection, or you conclude the light isn’t working, and you’re wrong, that’s not a defense against a ticket for running the light.

The law applies to bicycles and mopeds as well as motorcycles. It also requires the vehicle come to a complete stop before proceeding.

State Trooper Russ Winger said, “I think following the first segment of the law is most important, waiting a cycle. It then amounts to the rider to make a good decision on when to proceed, yielding properly and safely to traffic with right of way. I don’t think this occurs that commonly ‎but it can be done safely.

“Riders could get into trouble if they start running lights because they get tired of waiting for long duration timing signals during peak traffic time.”

I referred Bruce’s complaint to my state contact and asked that she make the district signal shop aware of it.

One thought on “How long must a motorcyclist wait at malfunctioning signal?

  1. “I think following the first segment of the law is most important, waiting a cycle.”

    So what about lights that do not have a cycle. Many in our county are sensor driven only, and don’t have any timed cycle.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Before you post, please complete the prompt below.

Enter the word yellow here: