Column: Is turning right on a red light your California birthright? Absolutely not!

It can be dangerous to walk on the streets in any city that has pedestrians and cars.

Over the last decade, all U.S. traffic deaths have increased by 13%, according to the Governors Highway Safety Assn a>, but pedestrian deaths have increased by a staggering 54%.

No one knows why.

Cities are looking for ways to stop this deadly trend. One promising solution is to ban drivers from turning right at red lights.


Last week, Berkeley joined in the effort by voting at the City Council. It follows San Francisco, San Jose, Ann Arbor, Mich., as well as Washington, D.C., which all have taken steps to reduce pedestrian and cyclist crashes by banning red lights.

“Policies such as eliminating right on Red are smart and simple ways to start the process deprioritizing cars in Berkeley and putting lives above driver convenience,” Berkeley Councilmember Terry Taplin wrotein a proposal.

The data so far are encouraging.

According to Route Fifty, which covers tech and innovation in cities and states, a study of the pilot program testing Washington’s ban found that pedestrians were yielding to drivers when the light is red fell dramatically. The study found that drivers were also more likely to encroach on the crosswalk when they try to turn right. This is a surprising finding. According to the study authors, this was likely because these drivers tried to turn at a red light, but realized it was illegal, and got stuck in a crosswalk.

Colin Browne, Washington Area Bicyclist Assn., said that pedestrians have a light to cross, but drivers are looking in the opposite direction to see whether there are cars coming. explained to Route Fifty, “So you have the decision: Is this person going see me or not?”

Personallly, I believe the ban is a great idea and would love to see it implemented in Los Angeles.

I am sure I’m not alone in feeling anxious when the light turns green as I approach a left turn. There is a lot to take in. Is there someone crossing the street in front me? Is there a cyclist approaching me from my right in the bike lane? Is it possible that drivers behind me are getting annoyed at me for not turning yet? Why does it all feel so intense?

When I see Energy Policy and Conservation Act of 1995. It required states to allow right turns at red lights to be eligible for federal assistance in mandated conservation programs.

This seems stupid in retrospect. It is yet another example of how pedestrian safety has been displaced by the automobile in this car-obsessed culture.

Jessie Singer informed me via email that allowing right turns on red was dangerous. This is why it was forbidden when traffic laws and lights were first introduced. Singer wrote literally the book about “accidents” in America. She continued, “It’s no coincidence that in New York City the most pedestrian-dense urban area in the U.S.A, right on red, has long been disallowed.”

Singer explains that this practice is dangerous for pedestrians because it leaves the safety of pedestrians at crosswalks and puts the lives of pedestrians in the hands of ineligible drivers.

Singer’s book “There are No Accidents: Deathly Rise of Injury, Disaster and Profits — Who Profits from the Price?” she claims that tragedies we call “accidents” can almost always be prevented.

She explained to me that “in the so-called “accident-prone” areas of our lives, we can protect people by reducing their risk of harm. Harm can be introduced when we take a safe system like the red stop rule and change it to suit our desires or convenience. The rule becomes a matter for opinion and judgement, which allows individual drivers to make their own decisions about safety and feel comfortable.

Berkeley’s ban is still subject to another funding vote before it can start posting “no right turns on red” signs at every intersection with lights. Although council members may be hesitant to “pushback,” they are right: It is easy and cost-effective to ban red rights.

Los Angeles, aren’t you listening?



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