A bill being debated in the Legislature would allow drivers to make left turns at red lights when it’s safe to do so.

AUGUSTA — Legislators are weighing a proposal to allow drivers to make left turns at red lights when it’s safe to do so.

“I completely understand that this isn’t going to be everyone’s favorite idea, but in my opinion, it should deserve some discussion,” Rep. Tim Theriault, R-China, said during a Committee on Transportation hearing this week.

“There have been many times that I have personally been stuck at a red light without a soul around,” he told colleagues. “I see no reason for people to be sitting there idling, wasting gas and polluting the environment when we used to be able to make that turn, before there was a light.”

Maine State Police decried the measure as likely to cause more crashes, injuries and deaths.

“We feel that no other outcome is possible if we were to allow people to proceed through red lights,” said Lt. Bruce Scott, commanding officer of the State Police Traffic Safety Unit.

“Think about the driving behaviors you have seen in your travels,” he said. “Consider the number of drivers who roll through stop signs even though the law says that you must come to a complete stop and then proceed if it is safe to do so. How long do you think it will take before vehicle operators are rolling through red lights?”

Jeff Cucci of Albion, though, told lawmakers the proposal “is all about increasing efficiency and fuel economy, and saving all of us time and money.”

He said that when there’s a steady stream of traffic, people won’t turn left on red or green. But if there’s nobody coming, waiting is a needless waste of gasoline and time.

“Then there are the stress levels that can’t be measured as one waits to be able to turn when there is no oncoming traffic to wait for,” he said.

Theriault said he submitted the bill at Cucci’s request. “I hope that you hear him out and give this bill a fair shake,” he told the committee.

Leslie Ohmart III of Brewer, however, called it “the most irresponsible piece of legislation I have ever seen.”

“It is fraught with danger for the citizenry of the state of Maine with the only benefit of saving impatient people seconds or minutes when waiting for a light to turn green,” Ohmart said. “As a motorist, motorcyclist, bicyclist and pedestrian, I vehemently oppose this bill and hope the committee will see the light and vote to withdraw this bill.”

He added, “Allowing people to turn left on red lights will make the danger we face on the streets much worse. Honestly, I don’t know what those who proposed and co-sponsored this legislation were thinking. For the safety of all of the citizens of Maine, this bill needs to be dead on arrival or certainly more innocent people will be.”


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