Drivers in Texas are usually permitted to turn right at red lights after coming to a full stop and checking that the intersection is clear. Allowing motorists to make right turns at red lights keeps traffic moving and prevents congestion, but a surge in pedestrian and cyclist deaths has led lawmakers in several American cities to ban the practice. Making a right turn at a red light will become an offense in Washington, D.C. in 2025, and a right-on-red ban is already in effect in New York City.
Lawmakers are considering right-on-red bans because pedestrian deaths have increased sharply in recent years. According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, the pedestrian death toll in 2022 was the highest in four decades. Many experts blame the rise in fatalities on the popularity of large SUVs and pickup trucks that are far more likely to cause death or serious injury in pedestrian accidents.
Research conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the National Motorists Association suggests that right-on-red bans will do little to improve pedestrian safety. In 1994, the NHTSA revealed that right-on-red accidents in Maryland, Indiana and Missouri over a four-year period and in Illinois over a three-year period caused only 558 injuries. A study of California traffic accident and personal injury data by National Motorist Association researchers found that red-on-right accidents in the Golden State account for one pedestrian death every two years.
Cameras and tickets
Lawmakers in many parts of the country are considering right-on-red bans to protect pedestrians and cyclists, but there is little evidence to suggest these bans will improve road safety. Motorist advocacy groups claim the bans are being introduced so cameras can be installed to identify violators and generate revenue for cash-strapped municipalities.