No More Right on Red?


Before we talk about the possible end of right on red, let’s talk about how it got started.  During the 1970 energy crisis, the federal government launched two initiatives in an effort to reduce fuel usage.  The first was the 55-mph speed limit for fuel efficiency.   The second was the right on red concept.  Experts believed that allowing right turns on a red light would permit motorists to keep moving and help reduce fuel consumption. 

Of course, the federal law mandating 55 mph speed limit on interstate highways was repealed in 1995.  Yet, the ability to turn right on red (unless signage prohibits it) has persevered.  Remarkably, it is has persevered despite an immediate spike in accidents involving pedestrians and bicyclists.  Now that pedestrian deaths are at a 40 year high, many cities and experts are calling for an end to right on red.

New York has banned right on red and so have some university towns that have lots of student pedestrians including Cambridge, Massachusetts and Ann Arbor, Michigan.  Other cities such as Denver, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Washington DC, and Seattle are currently considering right on red bans.

So why do experts think right on red is so dangerous?  First, drivers tend to focus their attention to their left as they look for a break in approaching traffic.  As a result, they fail to see a pedestrian enter the crosswalk.   Of course, we have also seen some drivers fail to come to a full stop in a right on red situation but instead drivers roll through the red light to take advantage of a break in traffic.   Another problem is that too many drivers do not come to a stop behind the crosswalk but instead pull up into it.

Not only are pedestrian accidents on the rise but there has been an increase in the number of pedestrians who are killed in these types of accidents as opposed to injured.  Many experts are blaming the increase in pedestrian deaths on the prevalence of vehicles with high front ends such as trucks and SUVs.  According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, vehicles with a hood height of more than 40 inches are 45% more likely to kill a pedestrian.  A car with a sloped profile typically only impacts the pedestrian’s legs and hips.  However, a vehicle with a high front end is much more likely to impact the pedestrian’s upper torso resulting in more significant injuries to vital internal organs.

As a result of all of this, right on red may be coming to an end in the future.  Even if you think your city or state would not ban right on red, they may not have much choice.  Just as it did in the 1970s, the federal government may tie federal funding for roads to a right on red ban and most states are not equipped to lose that funding.

For more than 30 years, The Law Offices of John Day have been helping pedestrians and their families recover the money the deserve following a pedestrian accident.  Our award-winning attorneys are here to help you too.  If you would like to discuss your case in a free initial consultation, simply give us a call:

Nashville: 615-669-3993

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