Utah Senate committee kills House-approved bill that would allow cars to sometimes run red lights

City of Erie traffic engineering employee Chuck Carnes Jr. uses compressed air to clear snow from a traffic signal in Erie, Pa., Wednesday, Dec. 27, 2017. Carnes was part of a two-man crew clearing signals after a record-setting snowfall. (Greg Wohlford/Erie Times-News via AP)

A Senate committee threw up a roadblock Thursday to a bill that would have allowed motorists to run red lights — if they first stopped for 90 seconds, determined the light is not cycling properly and proceeded when the coast is clear.

The Senate Transportation Committee voted down HB151 on a 1-5 vote. It The House earlier had passed it 39-34.

HB151 was strongly opposed by law enforcement, prosecutors, cities and the Utah Department of Transportation. They viewed it as hazardous, and a solution to a problem they say doesn’t exist.

But the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Ken Ivory, R-West Jordan, said “it is a simple common-sense solution” that provides a method for someone who is interminably stuck at a red light” to legally proceed through it.

Jason Davis, deputy director of UDOT, said repeatedly that most signals on state highways are tied into central operations that automatically detect problems, which are quickly fixed.

But Ivory said malfunctioning lights are common enough “that we’ve all been there,” and the bill is needed. Instead of directly legalizing going through red lights in such instances, the bill sought to make doing so an “affirmative defense” if a driver receives a ticket.

But Linda Hull, UDOT policy and legislative services director, said, “People will use this law as an excuse to be able to drive through a red light.”

Senate Minority Leader Karen Mayne worried aloud of people using the law on “giant highways, where if people go through they are dead.” She opposed the bill.

Sen. Jake Anderegg was the bill’s lone supporter on the committee. “I am one who has blown through these intersections because I sat at an intersection at 3 a.m. for five minutes it never changed…. It requires common sense.”

After his bill went down, Ivory said, “I’ll be back” next year.

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