Record editorial: Bill to allow drivers to pass through red lights is ill-advised
February 27, 2019
On Monday, the Utah House of Representatives gave the green light to a bill that would allow drivers to head through red lights if no other vehicles are approaching.
Lawmakers would have been wiser, though, to pump the brakes on the legislation.
H.B. 151, sponsored by West Jordan Republican Rep. Ken Ivory, aims to solve a problem most drivers in Utah have likely encountered — waiting alone at an intersection for a red light that is taking way longer than it should to change. Ivory's proposal would make it legal for vehicles to proceed through red lights after 90 seconds if no other drivers are approaching and there are no other hazards present.
But in attempting to eliminate what amounts to a minor inconvenience, the bill is destined instead to make Utah's roads more hazardous. The included provisions aimed at safety are thin — especially in a place like Park City.
S.R. 224, one of two main entryways into the city, is a prime example. The speed limit is 55 mph for long stretches — drivers frequently go 5 or 10 mph over — and the road is dotted with stoplights. Given the speeds involved, it's easy to imagine a driver failing to see cross traffic and heading through a red light when they shouldn't. The thought of drivers pulling the maneuver in the dark or when visibility is poor due to weather is even more unsettling.
And that's to say nothing of the increased risk for bikers, who are not always easy to see.
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Such concern wouldn't be necessary in a world in which drivers never make mistakes. Alas, anyone who's driven in Utah knows that's not the case. The reality is that the bill would invite drivers to make irresponsible decisions that could end in serious injury or even death.
Many local officials seem to think so, too. The Summit County Sheriff's Office and County Courthouse staffers have expressed significant misgivings about the safety implications of the bill. Janna Young, deputy county manager, went so far as to say there are some intersections in the county that wouldn't be safe under any circumstances for a driver to go through a red light.
Making it legal for them to do so, all in the name of getting rid of an occasional frustration, is ill-advised.
Hopefully Utah's state senators will understand that when they take up the legislation. Hopefully they'll ensure the bill doesn't become one more thing drivers have to worry about on Utah's roads.
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