Officials Consider Banning Right Turns on Red Lights To Decrease Accidents Involving Pedestrians, Bicyclists
An average of 20 pedestrians are killed every day in the United States, the highest rate nationally in more than 40 years, according to the latest national statistics. Banning right turns on red lights may help slow the rates of pedestrian and bicycle accident deaths, some city officials say.
The extreme rise in accidents involving pedestrians and bicyclists has prompted a variety of discussions to change policies and infrastructure, including the banning of right turns on red lights. Washington, D.C.’s City Council, for example, recently approved a ban to take effect in 2025. Chicago officials also hinted at a plan to restrict right turns on red. And in Ann Arbor, Michigan, a ban has already been implemented in its downtown area.
Other major cities — including San Francisco, Los Angeles, Seattle, and Denver — are looking into the possibility of bans. New York City has long prohibited right turns on red lights in most areas. In Idaho, the “Idaho Stop” is a term for a law that allows cyclists to treat stop signs as yield signs and red lights as stop signs.
“We must take proactive steps to protect pedestrians and bicyclists and reduce accidents,” said Matt Clark, managing partner and attorney at Chain | Cohn | Clark. “In the face of rising pedestrian and bicyclist fatalities, it is our moral imperative to take decisive action and implement measures that prioritize their safety on our roads.”
Although there are no recent national studies investigating the consequences of right-turning motorists, the Governors Highway Safety Association noted that in 2022, there were more than 7,500 pedestrian fatalities resulting from car collisions. The rise in pedestrian fatalities is partly linked to the increasing prevalence of larger vehicles, such as SUVs and pickup trucks, on our roadways.
Supporters of the ban contend that allowing drivers to make their own judgment calls regarding right turns on red lights is unsafe, particularly in light of widespread distractions, larger vehicles, and hectic routines. On the other side, critics say that outright bans may not necessarily enhance road safety, will inconvenience motorists, slow down commuter buses, and disrupt deliveries. In addition, the number of people killed by drivers running red lights has also hit record highs, according to a study by Automobile Club of Southern California.
Safety is everyone’s responsibility on the road — we can all contribute to safer interactions at red lights and intersections. Here are safety tips for pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorists when it comes to turning right at a red light:
- Look Both Ways: Always look left and right before crossing the street, even when the traffic light is red for motorists. Some drivers may still attempt to turn right on red.
- Make Eye Contact: Try to make eye contact with the driver to ensure they see you before you start crossing.
- Stay on the Sidewalk: Whenever possible, use sidewalks or crosswalks to cross the street, and obey traffic signals.
- Stay Alert: Avoid distractions such as headphones or cell phones when crossing streets.
- Obey Traffic Signals: Follow the same traffic rules as motorists. Stop at red lights and wait for them to turn green before proceeding.
- Position Yourself Properly: When stopped at a red light, position yourself in the rightmost lane or in a designated bike lane, so you’re visible to motorists intending to turn right.
- Make Eye Contact: As with pedestrians, try to make eye contact with drivers to ensure they see you.
- Signal Your Intentions: Use hand signals to indicate your intentions to motorists when turning right.
- Come to a Complete Stop: Always stop completely at the red light before considering a right turn, and ensure there is no oncoming traffic or pedestrians in your path.
- Yield to Pedestrians: Give priority to pedestrians and cyclists in crosswalks or on the road before making your right turn.
- Use Turn Signals: Signal your intention to turn right well in advance to inform other road users of your plan.
- Check Blind Spots: Before making the turn, check your blind spots and mirrors to ensure no cyclists or pedestrians are in your vicinity.
- Be Patient: Don’t rush the right turn. Wait for a safe gap in traffic and for pedestrians to clear the crosswalk.
- Avoid Distractions: Stay focused on driving and avoid distractions like texting or using your phone.
- Watch for Bicyclists: Keep an eye out for cyclists on your right side, especially in bike lanes, before making your turn.
If you or someone you know is injured in an accident at the fault of someone else, or injured on the job no matter whose fault it is, contact the attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Clark by calling (661) 323-4000, or fill out a free consultation form, text, or chat with us at chainlaw.com.