Your City May Not Permit Right-on-Red Turns for Long

More are looking closely at prohibiting the practice after spike in accidents with pedestrians, cyclists
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Nov 4, 2023 9:00 AM CDT
Move to Ban Right-on-Red Turns Is a Polarizing One
A sign is seen indicating to drivers that right turns on red aren't allowed within city limits in New York on Thursday.   (AP Photo/Peter K. Afriyie)

A dramatic rise in accidents killing or injuring pedestrians and bicyclists has led to a myriad of policy and infrastructure changes, but moves to ban right-on-red turns have drawn some of the most intense sentiments on both sides, per the AP. The City Council in Washington, DC, last year approved a right-on-red ban that takes effect in 2025. New Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson's transition plan called for "restricting right turns on red," but his administration hasn't provided specifics. The college town of Ann Arbor, Michigan, now prohibits right turns at red lights in the downtown area. Meanwhile, San Francisco leaders recently voted to urge their transportation agency to ban turning right on red across the city, and other major cities like Los Angeles, Seattle, and Denver have looked into bans as well.

"Drivers should not have the option to decide for themselves when they think it's safe," says Chicago-area resident Sophee Langerman, 26. "People are busy. People are distracted." However, critics argue that banning right on red will not only inconvenience motorists but also slow down commuter buses and deliveries. And Jay Beeber, executive director for policy at the National Motorists Association, an advocacy organization for drivers, called it a "fallacy" to assume such blanket bans would make streets safer. He cited an upcoming study by his association that analyzed California crash data from 2011 to 2019 and found that drivers turning right on red accounted for only about one pedestrian death and less than one bicyclist death statewide every two years.

The US is one of just a few major countries that generally allow right turns on red. There are no recent nationwide studies of how many people are hurt or killed by right-turning drivers. Turning right on red has never been allowed across most of New York City, but it was the default policy practically everywhere else in the US, until last year's vote in the nation's capital. Safety advocates who pushed for the change in DC are bracing for blowback from drivers, particularly if the city also allows the so-called Idaho stop, in which cyclists are permitted to go through a red light after stopping to make sure the coast is clear. "It doesn't make sense to treat cars and bikes the same," said Jonathan Kincade of the Washington Area Bicyclist Association. "They're not the same vehicle, and we've seen the outcomes of that." Much more here.

(More traffic light stories.)

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