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Traffic sensors in Iowa fail to register motorcycles

Iowa motorcyclists enjoy taking their bikes out on the open road, especially during the summer. There are over 181,000 motorcycles registered in this state, which means that there are many riders sharing the roads with passenger vehicles. But too often, drivers fail to take note of smaller vehicles on the road. They do not take the time to look for them and they do not give motorcyclists appropriate amounts of space to respond to changing conditions. Because of this, many riders are put in danger and end up getting hurt in a motorcycle accident.

It is true that motorcycles are much smaller than cars and trucks. But this does not give them any less of a right to be on the road. They are required to follow the same traffic laws as other motorists, but the reality is that motorcycles are often involved in accidents because of their size. In Iowa, the smaller size of two-wheeled vehicles is also presenting a hazard for riders at certain intersections across the state.

According to reports, sensors at traffic lights across the state are failing to register the presence of smaller, two-wheeled vehicles. The sensors are designed to change a traffic light to green when it senses that a vehicle is stopped at a red light. But apparently, motorcycles are not heavy enough to be detected by the system, according to a traffic engineer in Des Moines. This may not sound like a significant problem, but the failed detection can end up putting motorcyclists in a dangerous position.

At many intersections, riders can be waiting indefinitely for a light to turn green. They are told that they can turn on a red light as long as they think it's "safe." Some of them are even encouraged to get off their bikes, walk to corner and press the button for pedestrians requesting a walk signal.

Expecting or encouraging motorcyclists to make some risky moves at intersections is dangerous. Riders are already in a vulnerable position on their vehicles, so putting them in a situation where they need to get off their bike or make an unlawful traffic choice may only be making matters worse. Motorcyclists should be protected and regarded in at least the same capacity as other drivers. Failure to do this can end up putting a rider's life and safety in jeopardy.

Source: Radio Iowa, "Automated traffic signals have trouble detecting two wheelers," Pat Curtis, July 25, 2013

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