COLUMBIA -- Motorcyclists no longer have to wait on a stoplight that refuses to turn green, according to a new state law.
The law allows motorcycle or moped riders to proceed through a stoplight after waiting two minutes and making sure traffic is clear. Gov. Mark Sanford on Wednesday held a ceremonial signing for the bill, which took effect May 27.
The law is similar to those in effect in Tennessee and other states. The bill was pushed by Sumter resident and motorcyclist Billy "Reb" Richardson, who has worked since 2006 for it to become law.
Bikers have complained that motorcycles can fail to trigger the weight- and mass-sensitive devices that trigger green lights.
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"If I had a dollar for every time I've run a red light," mused John "Freebird" Hosier, 61 and from Manning. Hosier said his 1992 full-dress Harley-Davidson frequently fails to trip traffic light sensors.
The problem is worse, Hosier said, late at night or in rural areas.
"The later the hour, the less traffic."
Sanford hailed the law as a victory for common sense and liberty. With only so much time, Sanford asked, why waste it waiting on a light that will not change?
But highway safety experts worry the new law could get bikers in the habit of ignoring stop lights. In addition, said Tom Crosby, vice president of communications for AAA Carolinas, it is unfair that the law only applies to motorcyclists.
"In the name of freedom they give people the ability to make bad, and potentially deadly, decisions," Crosby said. With one of the highest highway fatality rates in the country, Crosby said, S.C. should not "erode respect" for highway safety laws.
But advocates say the rule is akin to taking a right turn on red or driving through an intersection controlled by a stop sign.
"Whenever you do go out into the traffic, you will look both ways and understand that cars don't always see motorcycles," said Sen. Jake Knotts, R-Lexington. "So use common sense."
The Transportation Department has adjusted the standards for the sensors, upgrading intersections as they complete maintenance. The agency also will upgrade an intersection if someone complains.
Reach O'Connor at (803) 771-8358.