It's a new year and with it comes some new traffic laws that most road users will likely never hear about.
As much as I would like to stand on my soapbox and rail about the Secretary of State's inability to inform motorists about law changes, I will digress. Just because we're required by law to renew our licenses every four years, heaven forbid we actually be asked to acknowledge in writing that we've even heard about these changes...
Instead, I will praise the efforts of the Active Transportation Alliance. This not-for-profit group goes to bat for cyclists and pedestrians, making it safer for each of us when we choose to walk or bike for transportation.
Last year, the ATA backed three initiatives that became law on January 1st:
Public Act 97-0499 clarifies state law prohibiting motorists from watching a video screen while driving.
Public Act 97-0572 provides that the injured, or their representative, in a traffic crash resulting in great bodily harm shall be entitled to notice of court proceedings and to testify at a sentencing hearing.
Public Act 97-0627 permits motorcyclists and bicyclists to proceed after stopping at a red light if the light fails to turn green within a reasonable amount of time. (not applicable in the City of Chicago)
All three laws deserve to be widely publicized. And while cracking down on distracted drivers pertains to the safety of all road users, the last two are very important to cyclists.
Again, I stress that the red light "stop and proceed" law was purposely written to exclude bicyclists and motorcyclists in the city. City cyclists are still required to make a full and complete stop at red lights and wait for the light to change to green before proceeding through the intersection.
In the suburbs and rural areas, this law was necessary due to a bicycle or motorcycle's inability to trigger the sensor at a stop light. At many sensor-activated controls, the light will not be triggered unless a heavier vehicle like a car or truck sets it off. With this new law, a cyclist can wait for a "reasonable amount of time" and if the intersection is clear, proceed with caution through the red light.
I must point out that "a reasonable amount of time" leaves itself wide open to interpretation. Is it reasonable to wait a full minute? Thirty seconds? A ten-count? The amount of time I can hold a track stand? Chances are, if no one else is around to trigger the light, no one's going to be keeping count, either...
Act 97-0572 doesn't lend itself to sarcasm as it is deadly serious. Whenever a pedestrian or cyclist is injured by the actions of another, he or she deserves the right to be heard in court. A judge needs to hear from the victim whether it was truly an accident and the defendant willingly rendered aid or the defendant acted with negligence or malice.
Too many angry motorists have literally gotten away with murder because the victim's agent was not permitted to testify in open court. Victims and their families and agents have been allowed to testify in other criminal cases, striking a pedestrian or cyclist should not be automatically excluded as a "civil" offense when there are times when there was nothing "civil" about the defendant's actions.
Again, I would like to thank the ATA for a job well done! I'm still appreciative of their initiative on the Three Foot Passing Rule effective 2008 (another widely unknown law).
I will do my part in making my readers, friends, family, and acquaintances aware of these law changes. Please consider doing your part by sharing this on Facebook and Twitter.
Keep riding and be safe!