(No) Right turn on red?

Recently on a trip to New York City, I was pulled over by the coppers for making a right turn on red, which they informed me is illegal in all of NYC. They let me go with a warning after I explained that I was from out of town and was not aware of this (so much for “ignorance of the law is no excuse”- seemed like a pretty good one to me). Having visited and lived in several states, I had assumed that, in absence of signs saying “No Turn On Red”, it is legal to make a right turn on red. Is New York City the only exception to the rule? When I travel to other states, should I wait for a green light unless people behind me start honking?

That’s a good question, Mojo. I was wondering that on a couple of my recent trips to Doper meets. Here in Toledo it is not only legal to turn right on red after coming to a complete stop, you can also turn left on red from a one-way to a one-way street. How common is that?

All I know is that I’ve read that in Canada a right turn on red is legal everywhere except in the province of Quebec.

In the western USA (California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Arizona) there is no state as far as I know that prohibits the right turn on red.

I know you can do it in both Frankfort and Lexington, KY, but I am not aware of it anywhere else.

As for right on red, it’s a traffic law and as such is set by the state and at times by different localities, so there is no national rule of thumb on this one. It’s fairly common, but you never know. Still, I’d pretty much just do it anyway until you were told by a cop not to. I would think most of them would let you off if it is an innocent mistake (although you might want to watch out in Southern bumpkin towns like the one I live in, since those cops watch for out-of-town cars to give tickets to).

There is no right turn on red here in Germany, either. When I moved to the States for college, I remember being very confused when people would honk at me!

IIRC, you can do the left-turn to a one-way street thing in California, too.

The left-turn-on-red-from-and-to-a-one-way-street thing is legal in Illinois also (I just took driver’s ed, so I had to know this stuff). Anyway, just thought I’d add that.

Well, either you’re closing your eyes to a situation you do not wish to acknowledge or you are not aware of the power of the presence of a pool table in your community. Ya’ got trouble my friends! -
Prof. Harold Hill
Gary Conservatory
Gold Medal Class

My understanding was the same as Mojo’s–I thought that nationally right-turns-on-red were legal everywhere unless explicitly prohibited. I don’t know of any other localities which follow New York’s rule.

In Virginia, left-turns-on-red are legal, unless prohibited by a sign, from a one-way street to another one-way street. In North Carolina, they are never legal. When the left-turn question last came up before the NC state legislature a couple of years back, representatives for the visually handicapped were the most opposed, as they felt it put pedestrians at risk.

When I lived in Richmond, Virginia, there was a one-way-street intersection near where I lived, which I sometimes would drive to, just so I could make a left-turn-on-red. One of the greatest disappointments of my life was the day I drove up and found that they had replaced the traffic light with a stop sign. It was never the same thrill after that…

I believe NYC is the last place where the right turn on red is prohibited at all times.
If it were allowed, I doubt that pedestrians would ever make it across the streets alive.

Here in L.A., right turns on red are allowed except where prohibited by a sign and even at those intersections people rarely look at the sign and just barrel through. (One such place is 5th and Olive in Downtown and nobody ever seems to stop.)

Just about every jurisdiction also allows the left turn on red if you are going from a one-way on to another one-way.

A lot of these changes were adopted during the energy crises of the 1970s.

I must be the only one who remembers this was one of Woody Allen’s jokes in his stand up days, that right turn on red was the only cultural contribution to come from California.

In Manhattan, anywhere you can enter the city driving (exits from bridges & tunnels, at least on the side facing Jersey), there are signs posted that read:

No right turn on red
Except where posted

Speed Limit
Except where posted

Mere Life is not Victory.
Mere Death is not Defeat.

Joe Cool

That may be true. When entering NYC, I was more intent on reading the directional road signs than the traffic rule signs.

And I also do the left turn on red when going from a one way street to another.

IIRC: Way back in 1980, Congress delcared a universal RTOR rule. It became effective in Massachusetts on 01-Jan-81. The state had a ball spending taxpayer $$$ putting up “no turn on red” signs at over 96% of the intersections. For “economy” sake, NYC was exempt from the requirement for putting up signs. IIRC, NYC is the only exception to this rule. IIRC, the National RTOR rule applies to left turns when both streets are one-way streets (and therefore a LTOR will not cross any traffic).

Now I can see NYC being given an exemption for a while (say 5 years), but the purpose of the law was to make the entire USA have a common RTOR law. So I say, NYC should follow the rule of the rest of the USA: Either allow RTOR -OR- put up signs like the rest of us.

Indiana was a little late in joining the RTOR trend. In the first year, the DOT exempted about 60% of the intersections, but they relented. An interesting variation: When there are two lanes in your direction, the left one in Indiana is usually left-only. The right one is right-or-straight. I figure this saves the go-straight traffic from piling up behind a left-turner. In Ohio, though, the right lane is usually right-only, and the left is left-or-straight. Folks who notice this usually think the other state’s method is crazy.


"Measure twice, cut once. Dang! Measure again, cut again.

Californians have the option of making a left turn into any of the available lanes on the next street, provided it is safe to do so. The only exception to this is if there are two left turn only lanes. Then you have to stay in your lane.

People from other parts of the country have told me that they find this practice very unnerving.

I remember in the early 80’s being pulled over in the Distric of Columbia for turning right on red. I was informed, by a very polite cop, that it was illegal in the whole of DC at that point. I think it has changed by now. I was warned, as I was from out-of-state

I was driving in downtown St. Louis about 10 years back. Came to an intersection with a green light and turned left. There were no cars (it was a Saturday morning). The only person around was the cop who pulled me over and wrote me a ticket.

He pointed out to me that left turns were prohibited even with a green light and no oncoming traffic if there was not an arrow.

I had never heard of such a thing!

Well, I got the last laugh. I was from out-of-state and never paid the ticket. Received lots of nasty notes in the mail (bench warrants issued for my arrest and all that); but I basically took the attitude that if the city of St. Louis wanted me that badly, they would have to send one of their glorified meter maids halfway across the country to fetch me.

To this day, I am very careful when driving in St. Louis.

Somewhere in the middle of this thread, the subject of LTOR came up. I asked:

After many days of less than satisfactory replies, I decided to email the local transit authority. To my shock & horror, I actually got a reply:

My tax dullards at work…

Woops, that should have read:

Somewhere in this thread…

A right turn at a red stop signal was illegal, when I was in high school. At some point Wisconsin passed a law making it legal to turn right at a red stop signal, after stopping.

Doesn’t each state have to pass a law to make this legal in that state?