In all 50 states and the District of Columbia, motorists may turn right on red at any intersection after coming to a full stop, unless right turns on red (RTOR) are prohibited. However, a number of studies indicate that allowing RTOR can be detrimental to pedestrian safety. Motorists who stop at the intersection and look left to see if the road is clear sometimes do not look right before turning and may not see pedestrians crossing in their path. A recent article in the J?ournal of the Institute of Traffic Engineers examined Washington, D.C.’s prohibitions of RTOR at 100 intersections in 2019 and found that vehicle-pedestrian conflicts were reduced by 92%.
In response to these safety hazards, many state and local jurisdictions are considering eliminating RTOR at key intersections. The state of Hawaii has prohibited them on a tourist-dense stretch of road in Honolulu. Washington, D.C., will end most RTORs by 2025. The city of Ann Arbor, Michigan last fall banned RTOR at fifty signalized intersections in its downtown core. And the city of Berkeley, California is considering banning RTOR all intersections.
Closer to home, The Urbanist reports that no-right-turn-on-red will be the default setting for any new or modified traffic signal built by the Seattle Department of Transportation, although exemptions to the right turn ban may be granted on a case-by-case basis. Meanwhile, the Washington State Legislature this past session considered a bill to ban right-turns-on-red near schools, day care centers, parks, and other zones with heavy foot traffic, but the bill died in committee. Feet First supports efforts to eliminate free-right-turns-on-red and hopes that other cities in Washington follow Seattle’s lead.