In nearly every major city in the United States, there’s been a long-observed rule of the road that most of us have used at one time or another: If you’re stopped at a red light, you still have the option of turning right, so long as you can safely account for oncoming traffic. However, the days of being able to turn right on red may be coming to an end, as a number of U.S. cities are considering banning the practice.
Turning Right on a Red Light: A Public Safety Risk
For many drivers, the option to turn right on red seems like a no-brainer benefit to the flow of traffic. However, an increase in the number of pedestrian deaths is causing many cities to consider banning the practice.
These proposed bans have drawn intense debates from both sides of the issue. On one hand, supporters of the ban think that drivers today are increasingly distracted and that it should not be left to individuals to determine when it’s safe for them to turn on a red light.
On the other hand, those against the ban have suggested that such a law wouldn’t do much to make streets safer. In an article from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, an executive director for policy at the National Motorists Association cited a study of crash data from 2011-2019, which found that drivers turning right on red accounted for only about one pedestrian death and one bicyclist death every two years, statewide.
However, a nationwide report from the Governors Highway Safety Association in 2022 found that more than 7,500 walking pedestrians were hit and killed by cars, though this number wasn’t limited to pedestrians injured by drivers turning right at red lights. Yet, vehicles with larger blind spots like trucks and SUVs do seem to have a higher likelihood of hitting and killing pedestrians while turning right on red. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found the odds of such an event are 89% higher for pickups and 63% higher for SUVs.
Both supporters and critics of banning right turns at red lights have valid points, but it will ultimately be up to local governments to decide how they want to handle right-on-red practices in their cities. Some cities already have a ban in place, and more are considering following suit.
What Cities Are Banning Right Turns on Red?
Turning right on red has been illegal across the majority of New York City for years. Now, Chicago, Washington D.C., San Francisco, Seattle, Denver, and other major cities have either already planned a date for a ban to take effect, or are seriously considering putting a ban in place. Considering the number of pedestrian accidents and deaths that happen in Georgia, it’s not unrealistic to expect the ban to be considered in cities like Atlanta and Savannah, as well.
Can I Turn Right on Red in Georgia?
For now, it is still legal for drivers to turn right on red in Georgia, including in major cities like Atlanta, unless a specific intersection notes otherwise. However, with bans being considered across the U.S., drivers can expect some discussion of whether or not to keep this practice to surface in local governments across the state.
The best thing both drivers and pedestrians can do right now is remain aware of the potential risks that come with drivers turning right at red lights. Drivers should be extra vigilant in looking for pedestrians before turning right on red, and pedestrians should be aware that turning on red is still allowed and that potentially distracted drivers may be preparing to do so. As in most traffic situations, the best thing you can do is be aware of your surroundings and proceed with caution.
If you are a pedestrian who was hit by a driver (turning right at a red light or otherwise), The Champion Firm can help you get justice for your case. Our attorneys have experience handling pedestrian accident cases in Atlanta, Marietta, Woodstock, and across Georgia. Contact us today for a free consultation.