A growing number of cities across the United States are considering banning right turns on red lights to combat rising pedestrian deaths. A "right turn on red" is when a vehicle can make a right turn at a red light after stopping to ensure it is clear and safe. However, many drivers do not follow the proper procedure, often obstructing crosswalks or performing rolling stops without fully stopping. These maneuvers pose a serious risk to pedestrians attempting to cross the street. Several major cities have already implemented "right-on-red bans," and others are considering doing so soon.
A right-on-red ban has been approved in Washington, D.C. and will take effect in the next few years. Other cities, including Ann Arbor, Michigan; Cambridge, Massachusetts; and New York City, have implemented bans or restricted right turns on red through specific signage. Additionally, cities such as Chicago, Denver, Los Angeles, Seattle, and San Francisco are considering similar bans.
A Short History of Right-on-Red Laws
Right turns on red lights were largely banned throughout the United States until the 1970s when the country faced an oil crisis. To conserve energy, the Energy Policy and Conservation Act of 1975 was passed, allowing cars to turn right on red signals instead of idling. States had to adopt this measure to receive federal highway money. Since then, right turns on red lights have been allowed nationwide, except where specifically posted. Interestingly, the U.S. is one of the few countries that permit right turns on red lights.
Searching for a Connection Between “Right on Red” Turns and Pedestrian Fatalities
According to a report from the Governors Highway Safety Association, pedestrian fatalities caused by car accidents have reached a 40-year high in the U.S. The analysis found that over 7,500 people were struck and killed by vehicles while walking in 2022, the highest number since 1981. Pedestrian fatalities have increased by 77% since 2010. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety also discovered that the odds of a pedestrian being killed by a turning vehicle were significantly higher when the vehicle was a pickup truck or an SUV due to their larger blind spots and greater force. The debate surrounding the banning of right turns on red lights is complex, with arguments from both sides.
To provide a more comprehensive understanding, let's delve into the advantages and disadvantages of such a ban.
Banning right turns on red lights offers several benefits that prioritize pedestrian safety. Safety advocates argue that such bans could help lower the risk of pedestrian deaths. Without the allowance for vehicles to make sudden or unexpected turns, pedestrians can cross the street with reduced worry and fear of accidents, significantly decreasing the risk of fatalities and injuries. It also improves visibility for both drivers and pedestrians by removing turning vehicles from obstructing the line of sight. This promotes safer intersections and reduces the likelihood of collisions and injuries.
However, critics argue that right-on-red bans may not necessarily make streets safer and could significantly slow down traffic. Concerns include increased congestion, air pollution from car emissions, and potentially heightened road rage and aggressive driving due to slower-moving traffic and longer travel times. These concerns highlight the need for careful consideration when evaluating whether to implement such a ban.
Balancing Safety and Efficiency
Finding the right balance between pedestrian safety and maintaining efficient traffic flow is crucial. While banning right turns on red lights may improve pedestrian safety, it is essential to consider its potential impact on traffic congestion and overall driver behavior. In some cases, alternative solutions like improving signage and traffic signal timings, enhancing pedestrian infrastructure, or increasing public awareness and education programs can be more effective in reducing pedestrian accidents. As cities continue to grapple with the rising number of pedestrian fatalities, thoughtful deliberation and data-driven decisions are necessary to implement measures that prioritize safety while considering the broader implications for traffic management and environmental concerns. It remains to be seen whether the movement to ban right turns on red lights will gain enough momentum to drive measurable change. Regardless of the outcome, both drivers and pedestrians should exercise caution on the road to prevent accidents.
Seeking Legal Help for a Pedestrian Accident in Bonita Springs, Naples, or Fort Myers?
If you or a loved one has been involved in a pedestrian accident, don't hesitate to reach out to the experienced attorneys at Pittman Law Firm, P.L. Our knowledgeable team can schedule a consultation to guide you through what you will need to pursue a personal injury case. Whether you are seeking compensation for catastrophic injuries or pursuing a wrongful death lawsuit, we will work diligently to prove the fault of the driver and defend you against any allegations. Your well-being and financial stability matter to us, and we are here to fight for your right to a fair settlement. Call (239) 603-6913 today to get started on your path towards justice and recovery.