Should Maryland Get Rid of “Right on Red” for Biker and Pedestrian Safety?

Should Maryland Get Rid of “Right on Red” for Biker and Pedestrian Safety?While the convenience and ecological benefits of making right turns on red lights are widely recognized, it’s crucial to acknowledge the potential dangers it poses to pedestrians and bicyclists. This common traffic practice, aimed at improving traffic flow and reducing fuel consumption, has come under scrutiny due to a rising number of accidents involving vulnerable road users. As cities consider the impact of this convenience, a critical examination of its effects on safety becomes essential. Balancing the ecological advantages and driver convenience with the need to protect pedestrians and bicyclists requires thoughtful consideration and potential adjustments to existing traffic regulations.

Banning right on red across the country

The increase in accidents involving pedestrians and bicyclists has sparked debates on policies and infrastructure changes, with some cities considering bans on right turns on red, according to an article published by Fortune. Washington, D.C. approved such a ban (effective in 2025), and other places like Ann Arbor, Michigan, have already implemented restrictions. Advocates argue that removing the option for drivers to turn right on red enhances safety, especially considering modern traffic dynamics. However, critics, including the National Motorists Association, question the efficacy of blanket bans, citing a study that suggests minimal impact on pedestrian and cyclist fatalities from right turns on red. The debate encompasses concerns about inconvenience for motorists, potential impacts on bus routes and deliveries, and the possibility of disproportionately affecting lower-income drivers. The issue also raises questions about the broader implications of red-light-related enforcement measures and the need for comprehensive road safety strategies.

What are the benefits of right on red?

Right turns on red lights have long been a staple of traffic regulations in the United States, offering several benefits to drivers and traffic flow. One of the primary advantages is improved traffic efficiency. Allowing drivers to make right turns on red when the way is clear reduces wait times at intersections, easing congestion and facilitating smoother traffic flow. This efficiency is particularly valuable in urban areas with heavy traffic, enhancing overall road capacity. Additionally, right turns on red contribute to fuel efficiency and reduced emissions by minimizing idle time at intersections. This aligns with historical considerations from the 1970s, where the U.S. government encouraged states to permit right turns on red as part of energy conservation efforts. While debates about potential safety concerns continue, proponents argue that responsible implementation and driver awareness can maintain the benefits of this traffic regulation.

What makes right turns on red dangerous?

While right turns on red lights offer efficiency benefits, there are also notable detriments associated with this traffic regulation:

  • Pedestrian and bicyclist safety: One of the primary criticisms is the potential risk to pedestrians and bicyclists. Drivers making right turns on red may be focused on checking for oncoming traffic rather than paying attention to pedestrians and bicyclists crossing the street. This can lead to accidents and pose safety hazards for those on foot and on bicycle.
  • Increased complexity for drivers: Allowing right turns on red adds complexity to traffic scenarios, especially in busy urban environments. Drivers need to navigate and assess various factors, including oncoming traffic, pedestrians, and cyclists, which can contribute to human errors and accidents.
  • Potential for red-light running: In some cases, drivers might be tempted to make right turns on red even when visibility is limited, leading to instances of red-light running. This behavior can result in intersection accidents and conflicts with other vehicles.
  • Impact on vulnerable road users: The size and visibility of larger vehicles with tall front ends, such as trucks and SUVs, can create blind spots for drivers making right turns on red. This poses an increased risk to vulnerable road users, including pedestrians and cyclists. These larger vehicles have become increasingly popular in recent years, leading to an increase in pedestrian fatalities.
  • Challenges for elderly or disabled pedestrians: Elderly or disabled pedestrians may face challenges crossing streets when right turns on red are allowed. Slower walking speeds or mobility issues can make it difficult for them to navigate intersections quickly.

Making right turns on red lights is meant to help traffic move more smoothly. However, there are downsides to this practice that need careful attention to ensure everyone’s safety on the road. Those pushing for changes in traffic rules stress the importance of finding a balance that puts safety first. They suggest increasing awareness, educating drivers, and improving the design of roads to minimize potential risks linked to making right turns on red lights.

While this still remains a strong debate, those who have been affected by accidents with cars turning right on red, are done debating. Melinda Kasraie, a woman who was struck by a car turning right on red, “needed a total knee replacement, had to give up her 20-year job, and moved to a small town in part due to her newfound fears of crossing the street.”

For some of us, giving up turning right on red would be an inconvenience; for Kasraie, however, a driver turning right on red changed her life: “He just needed to wait 20 more seconds and he would have had a green light, and that 20 seconds made a big impact on me.”

In Maryland, turning right on red, barring any signs prohibiting it, is legal.

If you were a pedestrian or cyclist crossing the road when you were hit by a car, maybe even a car making a right on red, you deserve compensation. At Plaxen Adler Muncy, P.A, our experienced Maryland attorneys are skilled at handling cases like yours, and they’ll make you their top priority. For more information about our services, or to schedule a free consultation at one of our 10 office locations here in Maryland, please call us or contact us today.