Peach State governor gives riders a red light

Peach State governor gives riders a red light

Posted by Ben Baker on Jul 16th 2016

The Georgia General Assembly passed a red light bill after several years of lobbying effort by the Georgia ABATE group. It went through both houses and sat on Gov. Nathan Deal’s desk for a while.

He vetoed it.

“While I am sympathetic to the concerns and causes of motorcyclists and bicyclists, this legislation does not provide an adequate solution and presents a confusing exception to motorists,” Deal said in a statement released after the veto.

The light would have allowed bikers to proceed through a traffic light that would not change. The bill required the intersection to be clear. Traffic signals that rely on in-pavement weight sensors to trigger a change are a bane of bikers everywhere.

The governor was lobbied heavily by the insurance industry who said it would drive up premiums and cage drivers would get confused by seeing bikers apparently go through red lights. In the legislative debates, the general assembly tried to mollify the insurance lobby. Wording was added to say the biker would be at fault in any wreck at a traffic signal where the rider proceeded through a red light.

The same bill, SB 76, sought to repeal Georgia’s ban on ape hangers. Deal also objected to that as well. “Motorcycles equipped with handlebars more than 15 inches in height pose a safety hazard due to the increased difficulty in steering and decreased control,” he said in the same veto statement. “I do not see how this legislation will enhance roadway safety.”

Writing for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Greg Bluestein predicted the bill would be vetoed because of the insurance lobby efforts. When it happened, he called the veto one of the “gutsier” actions take by Republican Governor Deal.

In a tragic twist of irony, Georgia ABATE lobbyist Joey Brush was killed in an accident on his way to speak with Gov. Deal about signing the bill. An SUV pulled out in front of him in Columbia County. Georgia ABATE called on Gov. Deal to honor the memory of Brother Brush and help protect bikers by signing the legislation.

The bill also included a number of other traffic safety provisions. Rep. Alan Powell of the Public Safety & Homeland Security Committee called SB 76 a “Christmas Tree” bill because of everything attached to it.

Georgia ABATE promises to bring red light and ape hanger bill up when the General Assembly meets again in the winter.