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Will a Right-On-Red Ban Save Lives?

Pedestrian and cyclist deaths are on the rise in the U.S. and reached a 40-year-old high in 2022. This has led Pennsylvania and many other states to look for solutions and make policy changes. One solution, according to some advocates, is to ban turning right on red, which is a legal driving maneuver throughout most of the country.

What Is Right on Red?

Right on red or turn on red is a driving maneuver in which a driver turns right at a traffic light showing a red signal. The law allowing right on red varies from state to state but is generally constructed similar to the law in Pennsylvania, according to Allentown personal injury lawyers. A driver has the legal prerogative to turn right on red unless there is a sign posted prohibiting it or the traffic light has a red arrow pointing to the right. The driver must be in the rightmost lane. They must come to a complete stop, and they must yield to oncoming traffic and pedestrians and cyclists before proceeding.

Why Is Right on Red Legal?

Many people believe that right on red is legal to improve the flow of traffic, and while that might be an ancillary benefit, it is not the original reason. It dates back to the 1970s when the U.S. was experiencing an energy crisis. In the hopes of limiting fuel consumption, the federal government warned states that they could lose access to some funding if they prohibited right on red except in clearly designated areas. Proponents of the ban argue that other provisions of the gas crisis era, such as capping speed limits at 55 mph, have long been abandoned. It is important to note that the U.S. government no longer encourages states to allow right turns on red lights. In fact, Right Turn on Red (RTOR), as New York law refers to it, has never been allowed in the five boroughs except where designated. A right-on-red ban is being considered at the federal level. A ban goes into effect in Washington, D.C. in 2025, and many major cities, including Chicago, Denver, Los Angeles and Seattle, are nearing finalization of bans as well.

How Many Lives Could a Ban Save?

There are many studies underway to try and answer this question. One notable study conducted recently by the National Motorists Association found that between 2011 and 2019, a ban would have saved less than one life every two years in California. Advocates argue that saving even one life would be worthwhile and also point to other studies, such as one in Toronto, Canada. Toronto has laws and practices similar to many U.S. cities and found that right-on-red collisions accounted for 2% of all pedestrian deaths and 4% of all cyclist deaths there.

Arguments for a Ban

Advocates argue that a ban will save lives and that it does not matter how small that number is. They also argue that the legal prerogative to turn on red provides little benefit to drivers and infrastructure while it causes uncertainty for pedestrians and cyclists and creates an unsafe environment.

Arguments Against a Ban

Critics argue that it will disrupt the flow of traffic. This will not only inconvenience drivers but have an economic impact due to slowing down deliveries and commuter buses. There are also concerns about the need to enforce the new law through the use of cameras as well as the ongoing traffic-camera-related corruption and bribery scandals in Chicago, in which the FBI is now involved.

Were You Involved in a Right-On-Red Accident?

If you or a loved one was injured by a vehicle making a right on red while walking or riding a bicycle, Metzger & Kleiner is here to help. Our law firm has extensive experience representing clients in personal injury cases and getting them the compensation they need and deserve. To schedule a consultation with one of our Allentown personal injury lawyers, contact us online or call (a) our Philadelphia office at 215-567-6616 or (b) our Lehigh Valley office at 610-435-7400, whichever location is most convenient for you.

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