Monday, January 20, 2020
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New law in Ohio allows drivers to run a red light

H.B. 154 in Ohio, which provides drivers with the right to run a red light at an intersection if they believe the traffic signal is malfunctioning and they have taken all appropriate safety precautions, is set to go into effect on March 21, The Flyer reports from Fairmont High School in Kettering.

What this signal means depends on where you are. (iStock)

“The new law is not a ‘free pass’ for drivers to just run red lights,” writes Aly Whitman in the student newspaper. “Although the law does not state how long a driver must wait before passing the light, drivers are not allowed to just wait a few seconds and then keep going. If a crash happens as a result of this, and the authorities find out that the light was working properly, a driver could still face severe punishment. The driver would be cited for a misdemeanor and/or be at fault for the accident.”

In fact, the law imposes three important conditions on drivers before they can proceed through the intersection against the red traffic control device. They must:

  • Stop at a clearly marked stop line, but if none, stop before entering the crosswalk on the near side of the intersection, or, if none, stop before entering the intersection.
  • Yield the right-of-way to all vehicles, streetcars, or trackless trolleys in the intersection or approaching on an intersecting road, if the vehicles, streetcars, or trackless trolleys will constitute an immediate hazard during the time the driver is moving across or within the intersection or junction of roadways.
  • Exercise ordinary care while proceeding through the intersection.

Like everyone else, I have been stuck at an intersection, sometimes in Ohio, on a country road with no cross traffic and a red light that seems to never end. This law is meant to address those issues for drivers.

But when I was a teenager, my impatience was higher than it is now and my ability to assess the safety of a traffic situation was lower than it is now. Students in Ohio, please make very sure that you are proceeding safely.

And, as I said before, be careful on the road, as some less able drivers will undoubtedly try to exploit this law. That could lead to more accidents and general chaos on the roads, and accident-avoidance is a far superior strategy than accident-recovery. Drive defensively, as your health and life are more important than a few minutes you might save.

Then, if you encounter a traffic signal that appears to be malfunctioning, report it to authorities so they can fix it. Even with the new law, the roads are safer when everyone agrees on the rules. Accidents are the leading cause of death among teenagers, and I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to drive carefully.

Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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