Turning right on a red: a horribly flawed idea

In the USA there’s a traffic rule that says that unless it’s otherwise stated, you can turn right when you have a red light as long as it’s safe. This is a terrible idea.

Most of the time this works out more or less OK — you just need to pay attention if you’re a pedestrian crossing the street. But there’s a big flaw in this system that, I have to assume, accounts for a large amount of car crashes.

If you’re about to turn red on a right, you can almost always predict what other drivers are going to do and decide when to go. Except when they have a directional arrow that allows them to turn left. If this is the case, you have no inclination that they have the right of way other than the fact that their 4 tons of metal is accelerating towards you.

Car A, who is turning left, sees an arrow that lets them know they can turn left. This is quite common in high traffic areas, as otherwise they’d be stuck for ages, only turning left one at a time.

Car B is your average teenager in the family SUV, listening to some wubstep, smoking the reefer and yelling at his friend on a cellular phone. Or something like that. He turns right, thinking that the oncoming traffic is stopped by the same red light that he has.

The result is a big bang and some sweary-words. Here, I’ve illustrated it for you to illuminate the issue:

Car A point-of-view

Car B point-of-view

Human beings are dangerous enough behind the wheel without legitimate excuses. Luckily, there is a magical invention that would solve this problem completely, and speed up traffic immensely, to boot. It’s called a Roundabout.

I am not holding my breath for them to appear.