SALT LAKE CITY — Nobody wants to be stuck at a red light that doesn't seem to want to turn green, especially when there are no other drivers or pedestrians around.
One driver took his frustration to lawmakers.
Now, legislation that would allow drivers to continue through red lights when the lights aren’t changing has advanced to the Utah House floor, despite concerns raised by the Utah Department of Transportation.
HB416 advanced from the House Transportation Committee Tuesday on a supporting vote. The bill's sponsor, Rep. Ken Ivory, R-West Jordan, characterized the measure as a “common sense, safe-on-red” bill.
“HB416 only applies when a driver comes to a complete stop and the light is not working, there are no cars, pedestrians or bicycles present,” Ivory said Tuesday. “In that case only, the driver may proceed safely.”
UDOT officials said they are concerned, however, about the potential consequences of a change in the law. Spokesman Zach Whitney noted statistics that show roughly 36 percent of road fatalities happen at urban intersections.
“We are concerned about where this bill is headed,” Whitney said. “It could create a potentially more confusing situation, and that’s what we don’t want to see.”
Brian Tenney, a driver who was ticketed six months ago in South Jordan for driving through a red light after several minutes of waiting, said he was "surprised that UDOT was so against it" because "it just seems like a common-sense bill."
"I didn't feel like I did anything wrong," Tenney said. "You can wait a long time and if the sensor doesn't pick you up and no other cars are coming to hit a sensor in a different direction, it just won't change, right?"
Tenney said he felt he had done everything right and there were no other cars or pedestrians around when he ultimately drove through the red light after several minutes of waiting.
“When I went and talked to the judge, he said: 'Sorry, there’s nothing we can do. You ran the red light, you got the ticket, it is what it is,’” Tenney recalled. “He said, ‘If you want to go fix it, go talk to your representative.’
"And that’s when I decided to bring it up with Ken Ivory.”
Tenney said he hopes lawmakers will ultimately adopt the legislation, despite UDOT’s objections.
“We cannot get stuck at red lights needlessly waiting for a technology that doesn’t work,” Tenney said.
The bill is currently on the House floor and will be debated in the coming days.