traffic light

How many times have you ridden up to an intersection with a traffic signal and had to stop on red only to discover that you could sit there all day long and the light won’t change for you unless a car or truck comes along which “trips” the light? Yep, bicycles and motorcycles often don’t have what it takes to cause the traffic lights to change. So what is a person to do? If we go thru the light when it is red we could get arrested.

Well, I have good news. The law makers of some 16 states thus far have passed the Dead Red law. It applies to pedestrians, bicyclists and motorcyclists. There is a catch, however. Unfortunately these 16 states did not make the law uniform. So one needs to know what the law is in the particular state they are in. After coming to a stop at a red light you are permitted to go thru it when it is safe to do so. However, you can’t do so immediately in most of the 16 states.

Here is a list of states and limited information as to how long you must wait before you can proceed. I applaud the passing of this law, but it really needs to be uniform and sensible. As you can see some of the wording looks dangerous … open to interpretation and opinion. I like Tennessee’s “allowed when safe” as it makes the most sense. It is all too dangerous when the lawmakers leave it open for interpretation and opinion.

dead red laws by state

I used to ride motorcycles and I had one for awhile when I was in the Navy. I can remember when I was in Charleston, S.C. where just about a block from the main gate of the Naval Base there was a traffic light that would not change for me. I used to pop a wheelie and bring the front wheel down onto the pavement where the sensing unit was at which would trip it. Otherwise it would not change. Fortunately I never had to deal with any police about popping a wheelie.

Anyway, dealing with traffic lights that won’t change for us is a serious matter and problem so I am glad that the state legislators are finally doing something to help. Running a frozen red is reasonable, and even necessary, but this actually makes it legal. Dead red laws just make sense. 34 states do not yet have the Dead Red law. One of the problems is the lack of knowledge of this law. Even many police don’t know about this law. So if you are in a state which has the Dead Red law and you have followed it, but still find yourself dealing with the police … be nice and respectful, but by all means, do educate them about this law.

HERE is an article about this subject. And HERE is another article.

In closing I just want to say that I was not aware of this law until very recently. I just stumbled across it while researching something else online. Actually I came across THIS TEST of one’s knowledge of Indiana cycling laws. This Dead Red law was part of that. I didn’t get it right as I had never heard of it. Otherwise I scored very high on the test. I was surprised to discover my own state, Indiana, has passed this law as Indiana seems to be one of the last states to pass sensible and needed laws. This is a law which should have been passed many decades ago. It is a law the other 34 states need to pass. I just hope the lawmakers make it uniform and sensible, but I am not going to hold my breath waiting for that to happen. What I am going to do as long as possible is to …


Author: Steve Newbauer

I have a few current blogs (tadpolerider1, navysight, truthtoponder and stevesmixedbag) so I am keeping busy. I hope you the reader will find these blogs interesting and enjoy your time here. Feel free to email me at tadpolerider2 at gmail dot com (

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