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What Is Indiana’s “Dead Red” Law?


Here’s something even experienced Hoosier drivers might not realize: Motorcyclists, scooter riders, and bicyclists are sometimes allowed to run red lights.

Under Indiana’s Dead Red law enacted in 2014, some road users are permitted to move through red traffic lights under certain circumstances. It’s a law designed to keep traffic moving, even when a road signal doesn’t sense someone.

How Does Indiana’s Dead Red Law Work?

Don’t worry, this isn’t a free pass for motorcyclists and bicyclists to run red lights! There are specific rules about situations where they’re permitted to do so.

Under Indiana Code § 9-21-3-7(b)(3)(D), a person riding a motorized bicycle, motor scooter, motorcycle or bicycle may treat a stoplight as a stop sign only if all of the following apply:

  • They came to a complete stop.
  • They have been stopped and facing the light for 120 seconds.
  • The light has failed to operate and change to green after 120 seconds.
  • The path of travel is safe and clear to proceed forward.

This means after waiting the full 120 seconds, they may then look for oncoming traffic, yield the right of way as required under Indiana law, and exercise care not to impede traffic or cause an accident while moving forward from the red light. Riders are NOT permitted to run red lights or just assume the light won’t change and blow right through it.

Why is the Dead Red Light Law Important?

This traffic law was a bit controversial when it was introduced because many people wondered, “What problem are we trying to solve here?” It addresses an issue most motorists don’t notice unless they ride a motorcycle, bike, or scooter: traffic lights don’t always see you.

It’s a myth that traffic signals work by sensing weight or size. Most traffic signals use electromagnetic induction, where the presence of iron triggers the stoplight to notice a vehicle. However, a bike or scooter that has little to no iron often won’t trigger traffic lights appropriately.

The Dead Red law gives these vehicles an option for moving forward without being endlessly stuck at traffic lights. It also prevents dangerous interactions between drivers who might try to scoot forward or split lanes at stoplights.

Some also call the Dead Red law environmentally friendly. It welcomes bikes and scooters to share the roads by eliminating a well-known hassle regarding stoplights. Theoretically at least, that’s good for all of us and good for the Earth.

What are the Risks of the Dead Red Law?

Unfortunately, people sometimes take liberties with the law and assume they can fly right through intersections without stopping. After causing a motor vehicle accident, they might point to the Dead Red law and try to use it to prove their innocence.

This is a strategy that’s unlikely to hold up in court or in an insurance claim. The Dead Red law specifically refers to motorcycles, bikes, and scooters and requires 120 fully-stopped seconds of waiting time. And afterward, the rider must ensure their path through the intersection is clear before moving forward.

There’s also the risk that any motorist could misunderstand the Dead Red law or not know it exists and assume anyone moving through a red light is a lawbreaker. This is why it’s important to stay informed about the latest rules of the road.

If you have additional questions about Indiana’s Dead Red law, Crossen Law Firm is here to help. We offer free consultations about traffic accidents to help our fellow Hoosiers protect their rights and stay safe on the road.

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Contact us at 317-401-8626 to schedule a free consultation about your case.