The US States Where Motorcyclists Can Legally Run Red Lights

chlightWe all had this experience. Waiting an excruciating time for the red traffic light to turn green. And for some riding to work, it’s a daily experience. The reason are the intersections sensors unable to detect light vehicles with not enough metal like motorcycles.

Confronted to this situation, some take illegal and potentially dangerous initiatives like running the red lights. But as a matter of facts, some states have what is called “Safe On Red” laws allowing motorcyclists to legally run red lights if following some safety rules, like waiting a minimum of time and making sure if it’s free of cross traffic or pedestrians.

But be warned that the “Safe On Red Law” is NEVER a valid excuse for the biker since in all states motorcyclists and cyclists are required to proceed with caution and yield to other vehicles or pedestrians using the intersection. States with this type of laws are listed after the jump.

Arkansas (2005) The state law allows a motorcyclist to proceed with caution, after coming to a full and complete stop, through a red light that fails to detect the bike. (Arkansas Code section 27-52-206)
• Idaho (2006) If a signal fails to operate after one cycle of the traffic light, the motorcyclist may proceed, using due caution and care, after coming to a full and complete stop at the intersection.  (Statute 49-802)
• Illinois (2012) Permits a driver of a motorcycle or bicycle facing a red light that fails to change within a reasonable period of time of not less than 120 seconds to proceed after yielding the right-of-way to any oncoming traffic. However, this law doesn’t apply to municipalities of over 2,000,000 people such as Chicago. (625 ILCS 5/11-306)
• Minnesota (2002) A person operating a bicycle or motorcycle who runs a red light has an affirmative defense if the driver first came to a complete stop, the traffic light stayed red for an unreasonable amount of time and appeared not to detect the vehicle and no motor vehicles or people were approaching the street.(Statute 169.06)
• Missouri (2009) State law tells both motorcyclists and bicyclists who run red lights that they have an affirmative defense if they brought their vehicle to a complete stop, the light was red for an unreasonable time period, and there were no motor vehicle or person approaching.  (Statute 304.285)
• Nevada (2013) Those using motorcycles, bicycles, mopeds, and “tri-mobiles” are allowed to proceed through an intersection with a red light after waiting for two traffic light cycles, and they yield to other vehicle traffic or pedestrians. (Statute 484B.307)
• North Carolina (2007) Motorcyclists are permitted to move cautiously through a steady red light after coming to a complete stop and waiting a minimum of three minutes and if no other vehicle or pedestrians are approaching the intersection. (NCGS 20-158)
• Oklahoma (2010) Motorcycles can proceed cautiously through a steady red light intersection after making a complete stop and if no other motor vehicle or person is approaching the roadway. (Statute 47-11-202)
• South Carolina (2008) After making a complete stop and waiting for a minimum of 120 seconds, the driver of a motorcycle, moped, or bicycle may treat a steady red light that doesn’t change as a stop sign and proceed with caution. (S.C. Code 56-5-970)
• Tennessee (2003) After coming to a complete stop, motorcyclists and bicyclists may proceed through a steady red light when it is safe to do so. (Tennessee Traffic Control Signals 55-8-110)
• Virginia (2011) Drivers of motorcycles, mopeds, and bicycles may move with caution through non-responsive red lights as long as they yield the right-of-way to others approaching the intersection, and have come to a complete stop for two complete light cycles or 120 seconds, whichever is shorter.(Statute 46-2-833)
• Wisconsin (2006) A motorcycle, moped or bicycle 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.  (Statute 346.37)

In early 2013, Nebraska introduced Bill LB 85 proposing a safe-on-red law, but the bill currently has a status of “indefinitely postponed.”

18 Responses to “The US States Where Motorcyclists Can Legally Run Red Lights”

  1. 1 JIm Dec 8th, 2013 at 9:45 am

    California also has a law that if the light is inoperative, you can treat it as a stop sign or flashing red light. If you are at a light and it will not sense you or change, that is consider inoperable, you can proceed through that red light. However, be mindful that most traffic officers know this, however, many patrol cops do not. Be careful and make sure that you give the light chance first, most time i just make a right turn, uturn and another right turn to get back on course

  2. 2 Boots Dec 8th, 2013 at 11:11 am

    Thanks Cyril! This info will be added to my helmet law list for my next cross country trip.

  3. 3 BadMonkeyMW Dec 9th, 2013 at 6:23 am

    Good info to have, thanks.

  4. 4 David King Dec 9th, 2013 at 9:00 am

    Jim, I think your comment is the most practical way to handle, especially in an area where we may not know the attitudes of the officers. I know some officers that would look the other before the law was enacted in Illinois. If one rides, one understands the limitations of the signal control systems.

    Your comment, is exactly how I handle the situation in an unfamiliar area. It’s never a good idea, in my opinion, to do something that results in a conversation on the side of the road with a LEO.

    While we have the law in IL, it requires a 120 wait by the rider before considering ignoring the signal.

  5. 5 Jack Dec 9th, 2013 at 9:10 am

    That will look nice on your tombstone: I was allowed to run the red light.

  6. 6 calif phil Dec 9th, 2013 at 9:50 am

    I think Kansas should be on that list. I remember reading where ABATE of KS had helped get that passed.

  7. 7 LoneRider Dec 9th, 2013 at 11:22 am

    As living in one of the states that has this red light law it is a good law. I have had many a time had to wait for more revolutions of the light before going thrrough. It is just common sense which isn’t common anylonger, as lots of intersections sensors will never sense a motorcycle. Great law!!

  8. 8 Dec 9th, 2013 at 11:33 am

    I think Florida should add this law.

  9. 9 Dec 9th, 2013 at 1:06 pm


  10. 10 Dec 9th, 2013 at 1:45 pm

    Perhaps it would be less offensive to come up with a term other than “running” a red light, as that title doesn’t bring to mind someone at a full stop waiting in vain for the light to change. Like any part of riding, it takes some observation and judgement to use these laws.

  11. 11 Bob D. Dec 9th, 2013 at 3:28 pm

    Everybody in my area seems to have a different understanding as to if/how this red light rule applies in Illinois, and there seems to be at least one light that gives me grief every ride. So, I really appreciate seeing the details spelled out here (e.g., must wait at least 120 seconds, does not apply in cities > 2M). Thanks for the useful info!

  12. 12 nicker Dec 9th, 2013 at 6:21 pm

    Woody has it right.

    It might be more appropriate to call it a “stop-sign stop” on a red light.
    Don’t need to give the clowns among us a reason to “run” a light.


  13. 13 Dec 9th, 2013 at 6:28 pm

    Thank You for the very important info
    Will add to the Biker data bank

  14. 14 KSW Dec 9th, 2013 at 7:45 pm

    Now all we need is more states with speed limits on highways that aren’t less than the pit lane limit.

  15. 15 JackS Dec 10th, 2013 at 8:00 am

    KSW, I agree! The highway near my neighborhood (Austin TX) has an 85 mph speed limit. Would like to see more!!

  16. 16 Jusmecuz Dec 10th, 2013 at 8:01 am

    That tombstone can also read… As I sat idle – for an extended period at a red traffic light, I began to blend in to the landscape over time. That is a catastrophe literally waiting to happen.

    I don’t sit alone at idle at any intersection for longer than I have to, red light or not. I have never been pulled over for passing thru them either.

    You have to look at for you, nobody is goin too.

  17. 17 Dec 14th, 2013 at 8:39 pm

    Yes, Kansas is one of those states that should be on the list. ABATE of Kansas was successful in getting this passed into law a couple years ago.

    Motorcycles may proceed at a non-responsive red light when safe and after a reasonable amount of time: KS Statutes, Chapter 8, Article 15, Section 8, C4

  18. 18 Grady Dillon as Tiny Dec 19th, 2013 at 10:12 am

    Well Apache Junction Arizona what are there laws our lights here are the same we stop at a light and we wait wait wait so can we run these lights with no hassle with the police not giving tickets .

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