The in basket: It looks like turning right at a red light is the
issue of the week. Three readers have suggested it for discussion
in this column.
Jane Rebelowski writes, “Can you please clarify right on red
laws? I am starting to see lots of bumper stickers stating that
they choose NOT to turn right on red.
“In places with heavy ped or bike traffic, I do not always take
the option,” she added.
Jim Oas asks, “In a right-turn lane, you may come up to a red
arrow, stop, and proceed, correct?
“If the right-turn arrow is green, you simply proceed without
“I get soooo many elderly folks or slow pokies that are younger,
that won’t turn on a red arrow,” Jim said. “Even when you honk
at them, they look in the mirror at you in disgust and just sit
And a commenter on the Road Warrior blog at kitsapsun.com who
goes by Maseace topped a list of driving behaviors he thinks should
be the subject of a public awareness campaign by saying, “A lot of
drivers in this state don’t turn right on red lights. The red arrow
only means that right is the only direction for that lane. The only
time you can’t turn right on red is when there’s a ‘No right turn
on red’ sign,” he concluded, correctly.
He or she also nominated keeping right except to pass, using
turn signals, using the zipper tactic to take turns at a merge, use
of headlights in darkness and rain, checking tire pressure and
tread depth and (for pedestrians) not wearing dark clothing at
night as requirements or good advice worthy of broadcast.
The out basket: I hadn’t seen any bumper stickers notifying
others that the driver won’t turn right on red. Such turns can be a
hazard to pedestrians and bicyclists, but shouldn’t be if the turn
is done legally, with a complete stop that provides time to look
around for them – and for other cars.
I guess some drivers must assume red arrow lights impose some
further restriction than do red ball lights, or why bother with the
arrow? I haven’t been able to get an official answer to that last
question, but they don’t.
State Trooper Russ Winger says, “You can make the turn after
stopping and yielding on either a red arrow or red ball light.
UNLESS there is additional signage prohibiting turning on red.”
The wording of the state law governing this, RCW 46.61.055 (3)
a) and c), is identical for red ball and red arrow signals, so
where you can turn at one, you can turn at the other.
Yes, Jim, a green arrow turn signal gives a driver the
right-of-way to proceed without stopping as much as does a green
And finally, Coleen Smidt, another blog commenter, noted just
Thursday that “The most ignored ‘No Turn on Red’ sign in the city
of Bremerton is just a couple of blocks from my house at the corner
of 11th and Naval. Very few drivers pay any attention to it. These
are the same drivers that pay very little attention to the school
zone in that area.”