Many Washington motorists think nothing of turning right at a red light. Provided that there are no circumstances to dictate otherwise, it is legal to make a right turn if you stop first at a red light. Still, this does not mean that right turns on red do not present some added risk to anyone crossing the intersection at the time someone makes a right turn. The Bellingham Herald explains how these risks may manifest themselves.
It was not until 1980 that all fifty states had actually legalized making a right turn after stopping at a red light. The states made these changes so that cars would save fuel while driving. However, analysis that followed this policy change discovered that accidents and crashes were more likely to occur, with one study finding that total crashes were up 23 percent at intersections that permitted right turns on red.
Turning right on red does not cause a drastic increase in fatalities for people who drive or ride in a vehicle. However, the studies did find troubling results if you are a pedestrian or a cyclist. In fact, over half of traffic fatalities resulting from right turns on red were people who were on foot or riding a bicycle. The problem is that while looking for a clearance in traffic, motorists may not be aware of people walking down a crosswalk.
While stopped at an intersection, motorists may only be on the lookout for oncoming traffic and fail to check both directions before turning. This can be a dangerous mistake since pedestrians and bicyclists may approach from a direction that a motorist is not checking. Anyone who stops at a red light should check in both directions before crossing into an intersection and be particularly aware of people on foot or on bikes.
Washington motorists should also remember that right turns on red are not required. You can choose to remain at a red light until it turns green before making a right turn. Drivers that do not feel comfortable making a right turn should not feel pressured into doing so. Keep in mind that this article is written to educate you on car accidents and is not legal advice.