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Right turn on red

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Right turn on red

French sign indicating to cyclists that they may treat the red light as a yield if turning right.
"No right turns on red light" sign in Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Turning right on red is forbidden in New York City unless this sign or similar is posted.[1]
In the United States outside New York City, right turns are permitted on red (except for school buses and trucks carrying hazardous materials) unless there is a "No Turn on Red" or a "Right Turn Signal" light indicating the same and controlling the right turn.
A self-contradictory "Right turn on red" traffic light in Belgrade, Serbia

Right turn on red, or simply right on red, is a principle of law permitting vehicles at a traffic light showing a red signal to turn right (almost always after a complete stop) when the way is clear, in a country with right-hand traffic. It is intended to allow traffic to resume moving, with minimal risk provided that proper caution is observed.

North America

Right turns on red are permitted in many regions of North America. While Western states have allowed it for more than 50 years; eastern states amended their traffic laws to allow it in the 1970s as a fuel-saving measure in response to motor fuel shortages in 1973 and 1979. All 50 states, the District of Columbia, Guam, and Puerto Rico have allowed right turns on red since 1978, except where prohibited by a sign or where right turns are controlled by dedicated traffic lights. (In June 1978, Maryland became the last state to allow right turns on red.[2] Right turns on red became legal in the District of Columbia in November 1978.[3]) The few exceptions include New York City,[4] where right turns on red are prohibited, unless a sign indicates otherwise.

In some states, such as New York[5] and California, a right turn on red is prohibited when a red arrow is displayed.

At intersections where U-turns are permitted and controlled by an arrow from the left-most lane, motorists turning right on red onto the same road must yield to those making U-turns before turning, as the motorists making U-turns have the right of way and a collision could easily occur. At intersections where U-turns are prohibited in the same fashion, a green right turn arrow will sometimes appear with the red light for those turning right onto the road, allowing only traffic turning right to proceed without having to stop or yield to other vehicles. Some states such as California have "No U-Turn" signs posted at these intersections because of the green right turn arrow.

Most Caribbean countries with right-hand traffic, such as the Dominican Republic, allow right turn on red unless a sign prohibits it. Some vehicles, such as those carrying hazardous materials and school buses, are not allowed to turn on red under any circumstance and must wait for a green light or arrow.

During 1982–1992, approximately 84 fatal crashes per year occurred in the U.S. where a vehicle was turning right at intersections where right turn on red was permitted. As of 1992, right turn on red is governed federally by 42 U.S.C. § 6322(c) ("Each proposed State energy conservation plan to be eligible for Federal assistance under this part shall include: ...(5) a traffic law or regulation which, to the maximum extent practicable consistent with safety, permits the operator of a motor vehicle to turn such vehicle right at a red stop light after stopping, and to turn such vehicle left from a one-way street onto a one-way street at a red light after stopping."). All turns on red are forbidden in New York City unless a sign is posted permitting it.[6] This law has been protested but not overturned.

Throughout most of Canada, a driver may turn right at a red light after coming to a complete stop unless a sign indicates otherwise. In the province of Quebec, turning right on a red was illegal until a pilot study carried out in 2003 showed that the right turn on red manoeuvre did not result in significantly more accidents. Subsequent to the study, the Province of Quebec now allows right turns on red except where prohibited by a sign. However, owing to locally specific safety concerns, it remains illegal to turn right on a red anywhere on the Island of Montreal.[7] Motorists are reminded of this by large signs posted at the entrance to all bridges.

In Mexico, right turns on red are generally prohibited unless a sign indicates otherwise, and motorists can be issued a citation for noncompliance.[8] However, right turns on red are allowed in Mexico City.[9]

South America

Chilean right turn on red permitted sign

In Chile, right turns on red are only allowed when a sign permitting it is shown.


German Right turn on red permission sign

In European Union member states in general, it is illegal to turn on a red light, unless it is indicated otherwise, for example by a green arrow on a red light, a flashing amber arrow with a red light or a permanent green board next to the red light.

In Poland, right turns on red are permitted, after a complete stop, when a specific sign is present.

In Germany, right turns on red are permitted, after a complete stop, when a specific sign is present. This rule was first introduced in 1978 in East Germany and was originally supposed to become obsolete together with the East German highway code by the end of 1990, following German reunification. However, authorities were unable to remove the signs in time, and public opinion caused them to leave the regulation unchanged, even extending its scope to the former areas of West Germany in 1994. By 1999, there were 300 turn-on-red intersections in West Germany while East Germany featured 2,500; the numbers in West Germany have risen considerably since then, though, and as of 2002 a total of 5,000 turn-on-red intersections were counted, with 48% in West Germany.

In Russia, which drives on the right as do most countries in Europe, turns on red are prohibited unless a separate arrow-shaped green light allows it; drivers must give way to any vehicle coming from a different direction. When the arrow is not lit, turns in the arrow direction are prohibited.[10]

French Right turn (or others) on red permission sign

In the Netherlands, bicycles are occasionally allowed to turn right on a red light. Wherever this is the case, a sign "rechtsaf voor fietsers vrij" (right turn free for cyclists) or "rechtsaf voor (brom)fietsers vrij" (right turn free for cyclists and mopeds) is present. In practice, especially in large cities such as Amsterdam, cyclists rarely stop for traffic lights on right turns even if there is no sign.

In France a right turn on red without stopping is allowed when a separate arrow-shaped amber light flashes, but drivers do not have priority. They must check if any pedestrians are crossing before turning and must give way to vehicles coming from other directions.

Like in the Netherlands, France has a road sign that allows cyclists to turn right on a red light.[11]

In 2011, the Belgian Parliament considered erecting road signs that would allow cyclists to turn right on a red light.[12][13]

In the United Kingdom, left turn on red is generally prohibited, but at some junctions there is a separate arrow-shaped green light which, when lit, allows left-hand turns.

In Lithuania, drivers are allowed to turn right on red when a specific sign with green arrow is present. However on 10 November 2014, traffic rules were changed so that the specific sign with green arrow is valid until 31 December 2019. Until that time all specific signs with green arrows in Lithuania will be eliminated. Changes were made because of road safety reasons.[14]


As in the United Kingdom, left turn on red is always prohibited in Hong Kong. At some junctions, however, there may be separate sets of signals for left turns, or specific lanes for turning left separating from the through traffic by traffic islands and give way signs are installed. One such example is at the junction of Queen's Road East and Morrison Hill Road.

In China, right turn on red is permitted, unless there is a red arrow pointing to the right.

In India, which drives on the left, a "Free left turn" is allowed unless there is a sign prohibiting it ("No free left (turn)").[15] In certain places an explicit sign also guides drivers to take a "free left" turn.

In Japan, which drives on the left, the only left turn allowed requires a green left arrow along with the red light.

Singapore "Left Turn On Red" sign

In Singapore, which drives on the left, left turn on red is allowed only when the "Left Turn On Red" sign is displayed at the traffic junction. The driver will have to stop at the red light first and give way to pedestrians and oncoming vehicles from their right before turning.[16]

In Taiwan (Republic of China), right turn on red is always prohibited, except when there is a green arrow along with the red light.


In Australia, left turns on red are permitted at some intersections with a "left turn on red permitted after stopping"[17] sign, though such signs are relatively rare.[18]

In New Zealand, left turns on red are permitted at some intersections with a "free turn" sign, or a special lane passing to the left of the traffic light, which sits on a traffic island.

Pedestrian safety

Turns on red are especially problematic for pedestrians due to drivers looking left for traffic on red light and not noticing a pedestrian waiting to cross the street to the driver's right. This may lead to a "right hook" collision when the driver and pedestrian both enter the intersection. Right on red reduces perceived safety for pedestrians and hence walkability. Suburbanization and car oriented development of the west has been a driving force behind right turn on red, although in some downtown core areas even in Western US right on red is explicitly prohibited with signs.

Left turn on red

Left turns on red for US states

In the U.S., 38 states and Puerto Rico allow left turns on red only if both the origin and destination streets are one way. (See South Carolina law Section 56-5-970 C3,[19] for example.)

Five other states, namely Alaska, Idaho, Michigan, Oregon and Washington, allow left turns on red onto a one-way street even from a two-way street.[20][21][22][23][24]

The following states and territories ban left turns on red: South Dakota (unless permitted by local ordinance), Connecticut, Maine, Missouri, New Hampshire, North Carolina, the District of Columbia, and Guam. New York City also prohibits left turn on red lights, unless a sign indicates otherwise.

In Canada, left turn on red light from a one-way road into a one-way road is permitted except in some areas of Quebec, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island. Left turn on red light from a two-way road into a one-way road is permitted in British Columbia[25] but only if the driver turns onto the closest lane and yields to pedestrians and cross traffic.

See also


  1. ^ "Driver's Manual". New York State Department of Motor Vehicles. 
  2. ^ "Maryland To Adopt New Right Turn Rules". The Washington Post. June 22, 1978. p. MD6. 
  3. ^ Eisen, Jack (November 11, 1978). "Right Turn on Red: City Adopts Limited Program at Designated Intersections". The Washington Post. p. B1. 
  4. ^ "Right Turn on Red". Sustainable Streets Index. New York City Department of Transportation. 2009. 
  5. ^ "Chapter 4: Traffic Control". Online Driver's Manual and Study Guide. New York State Department of Motor Vehicles. 
  6. ^ "Right Turn on Red" (PDF). Retrieved 22 January 2010. 
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^ Reglamento de Tránsito del D.F. Título 4, artículo 66, inciso IX
  10. ^ Правила дорожного движения Российской Федерации, п.6.3
  11. ^ Trotignon, Jean-Michel. "Tourne à droite au feu rouge: il manque juste le panneau". Vélocité. Fédération française des Usagers de la Bicyclette. Retrieved 16 July 2011. 
  12. ^ "Fietsers binnenkort door rood?". De Standaard. Retrieved 16 July 2011. 
  13. ^ "Wetsvoorstel tot wijziging van het koninklijk besluit van 1 december 1975 houdende algemeen reglement op de politie van het wegverkeer en van het gebruik van de openbare weg teneinde de fietsers toe te staan in bepaalde gevallen de verkeerslichten voorbij te rijden". Belgische kamer van volksvertegenwoordigers. 
  14. ^ Changes of Lithuanian Traffic rules on 3rd October 2014 - valid from 10th October 2014 (Lithuanian)
  15. ^
  16. ^ Left Turn On Red Scheme, Singapore ONE Motoring, Land Transport Authority Singapore 2011-08-27
  17. ^ [1]
  18. ^ [2]
  19. ^ "South Carolina Code of Laws (Unannotated): Current through the end of the 2010 Session". South Carolina Legislature Online. Office of Legislative Printing, Information & Technology Systems. November 5, 2011. Archived from the original on November 5, 2011. S.C. Code Section 56-5-970(C)(3). Except when a sign is in place prohibiting a turn, vehicular traffic facing any steady red signal may cautiously enter the intersection to turn right or to turn left from a one-way street into a one-way street after stopping as required by item (1) or (2). Such vehicular traffic shall yield the right-of-way to pedestrians lawfully within an adjacent crosswalk and to other traffic lawfully using the intersection. 
  20. ^ [3]
  21. ^ [4]
  22. ^
  23. ^
  24. ^
  25. ^ BC Motor Vehicle Act, Section 129

External links

  • The Safety Impact Of Right Turn On Red: Report To Congress, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Traffic Tech
  • Sarkar, van Houten, and Moffatt, Using License Manuals To Increase Awareness About Pedestrian Hazards at Intersections, Transportation Research Record 1674.
  • Traffic Light Signals and Red Light Cameras: Turning on Red Light (US), by Justin JIH.
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