By Salina Martin
Right Turn on Red (RTOR) is a law that permits vehicles to make a right turn when the traffic signal is red, after stopping and yielding the right-of-way to pedestrians. It is intended to maintain steady traffic flow with minimum risks. It initially started by western states in order to reduce vehicle delay and save fuel during the oil crisis in the 1970s. Some people have been skeptical of whether turning right on red actually saves fuel, the following video from MythBusters on the Discovery Channel proves this:
By January 1, 1980 all 50 states adopted this law, unless there is a sign or signal prohibiting it. Most signs prohibit turning right on red at all times, while others specify when there is no turning right on red by posting given times or lighting the sign up. The following signs are examples of the RTOR being prohibited:
|Figure 1: http://safety.fhwa.dot.gov/ped_bike/tools_solve/ped_scdproj/sys_impact_rpt/chap_2.cfm|
|Figure 3: http://www.mothercopper.com/case_yours/CVC_21453.html|
|Figure 2: http://www.123rf.com/photo_452922_no-turn-on-red-sign-with-addendum.html|
|Figure 4: http://www.123rf.com/photo_914406_no-turn-on-red-sign-when-pedestrians-crossing.html|
|Figure 5: Melnea Cass @ Tremont St|
New York City is the exception. All right turns on red are prohibited unless this sign is present:
|Figure 6: http://ookaboo.com/o/pictures/topic/13170721/Right_turn_on_red|
Right turns on red allow the motorist to save fuel and reduce their idle waiting time at the intersection. Although RTOR only accounts for a small percentage of crashes at signalized intersections, it still poses a hazard to bicyclists and pedestrians, especially the children, elderly, and handicapped. When a motorist is preparing to make a right turn on red, they tend to block the crosswalk. This is a significant issue for pedestrians who need to use the curb ramp in order to cross the street. In the following pictures, a car is preparing for his turn by blocking the crosswalk that is along the Southwest Corridor.
|Figure 7: Columbus Ave @ Cedar Street|
|Figure 8: Columbus Ave @ Cedar Street|
In 1981, Preusser and Associates conducted a study on the effects of RTOR on pedestrian safety. They found that the number of crashes from right turns almost doubled. One of the most common RTOR pedestrian crashes occurs when a driver is looking left for an appropriate gap to complete the turn and fails to see the pedestrian crossing from the right side. Directional movements related to RTOR crashes involving pedestrians and bicyclists are illustrated in Figure 9. This study concluded that there was a small but clear safety problem for pedestrians due to RTOR. The National Traffic Highway Safety Administration submitted a report to congress in 1994 on the safety impact of RTOR. According to their data, RTOR crashes only made up .4 percent of all signalized intersection crashes. Of those crashes, most involved pedestrian or bicyclist injury but only one percent were fatal.