Tag Archives: right on red

Is Lindvig to Front Street in Poulsbo a right turn?

The in basket: Bruce Brockett asks, “When entering Poulsbo on NW Lindvig Way, at the traffic light where Bond Road is on the left, and Front Street is on the right/straight ahead (Liberty Bay Auto on the right), is a right turn on red onto Front Street allowed?

“I never see anyone doing it. If allowed, are all three-way intersections OK for a turn on red (actually straight through) from the similar approach lane?”

The out basket: Sgt. Howard Leeming of Poulsbo police says, no, that is not a legal right on red.

“It is not a right turn at that location,  as it is a basic ’T’ intersection with the through road being Lindvig Way to Front Street,” he said. “The road does slightly turn and changes its name, which could lead to some confusion.

“I’ve been asked this question before and an answer I often provide to make it meet the common sense test is asking the driver if they had the green light going this direction, would they put their turn signal on? The answer is always ‘no’ so they seem to already understand it is simply a bend in the roadway, not a turn.

“Coming from the other direction, you can make the right turn after stopping on Front Street to Bond Road and you can also turn right after stopping for a red light from Bond Road to Lindvig Way,” he said.


Right vs. left turners at flashing yellow pose a question

The in basket: Margaret Gibbard writes, “Two cars are turning onto the same road- which has the right of way – the right-on-red car or the left-on-blinking-yellow car?

The out basket: That’s an excellent question that hadn’t occurred to me. A left turner with a green light would have right of way, but the blinking yellow left turn signals require yielding to vehicles with a green light, which, of course, a right-on-red turner wouldn’t have.  I had to ask Kitsap County Sheriff’s Deputy Scott Wilson to sort it out for me.

“A left turn is one of the most dangerous movements a motorist makes,” Scott replied. “Left turn traffic signals are designed to let drivers know when to yield to oncoming traffic and when they have the right of way, but the variety of the signals that are in use can be confusing.

“The person who submitted this question asked specifically about which driver has the right of way when two cars approach from opposite sides of an intersection:  a vehicle that is turning left has a flashing yellow arrow, while the other vehicle that is turning right  has a red light.

“In this instance the car turning right has to come to a complete stop before proceeding.  It must yield to any vehicles approaching from the left as well as any vehicles approaching from the opposite direction with a green left turn arrow or a flashing yellow arrow.

“The vehicle turning left on a flashing yellow arrow has the right of way over the car that’s stopped for the red signal, intending to turn right.  The car with the flashing yellow arrow must proceed with caution and yield to any vehicles that are entering and passing through the intersection from the opposite direction.”

So I guess it depends on whether the right turner has gotten into the intersection already.


Some drivers refuse to turn right on red

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 stopping, yes?

“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 there.”

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 ball signal.

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.”



Rights on red prompt question

The in basket: Lois Clauson writes, “I know it is legal in Washington state to make a right turn on a red light if it is safe to do so. I was told recently that it is not legal if there are two red lights at the intersection.  If that is correct, what is the reasoning behind it?”
The out basket: There are at least two traffic signals at almost every intersection in this state. It complies with a federal guideline requiring that stop signals be “double-hung,” providing redundancy if one burns out or is obscured by other traffic.
I can’t tell from Lois’ question whether she is addressing only places like 11th Street and Kitsap Way in Bremerton and the northbound Highway 3 off-ramp to Highway 305 in Poulsbo where there are two right-turn signal arrows regulating the turn. In both places a driver in either of those two lanes may turn right on red after stopping and yielding to any traffic with a green light, making sure he or she doesn’t encroach on the adjacent lane while turning.
If only the outer red signal points right, or if none do, in most cases only the outer lane is available for a right on red. In some places, signs or pavement markings will do the same thing as a second red light arrow, permit a right on red from the inner lane. Southbound Warren Avenue at 11th Street in Bremerton used to be such a place, before its recent reconstruction.

Clearing up red arrow signal confusion

The in basket: judy Kaylor asks in an e-mail, “Will you inform your readers, including me, about the rules of the road for a red or green arrow light governing a right turn at an intersection? We’ve understood in the past that a red light at an intersection permits us to make a free right turn, traffic permitting.  However, I’ve been instructed that a red arrow on a specific right turn at an intersection means ‘stop where you are until the arrow turns green.’

“In Silverdale, at least, I’ve seen many drivers continue to take a free right turn on a red arrow light.  And if I’m at the head of the line waiting for the green arrow light, I’ve been honked at and waved at to get moving.

“Clarification of the rules of the road on this situation would be helpful for all of us,” she said.

The out basket: If Judy was informed of the above as regards this state, she was misinformed. A driver facing a red arrow light is as entitled to make a right turn as one facing a red ball light, under the same restrictions: the driver must come to a complete stop before turning, must yield to any conflicting traffic with the right of way, and there can be no sign forbidding the turn, such as the signs you will see in Bremerton on Callow Avenue at 11th Street and on Montgomery Avenue at Sixth.

And as noted here previously, that is also true of both lanes with the double red arrow lights such as on 11th Street at Kitsap Way.

I used to call those free rights, too, but my sources finally broke me of the practice. They are rights on red. A free right requires no stop before turning. The southbound Waaga Way (Highway 303) off-ramp at Ridgetop Boulevard is a free right.

If you have a taste for legalese, you can read the relevant state law, RCW 46,61.055. That’s the same one that permits that oddest of deviations from driving practice, the left turn against a red arrow signal, but only onto a one-way street, such as a freeway on-ramp.

You almost never see it done, because it’s rare that the first person in line at such a place (westbound Burwell Street and Pacific Street in Bremerton, for example) knows it’s legal.

Some highway philosophizing

The in basket: I just came across an e-mail exchange between Jim Mills and myself from way back last fall, and decided it would be worth using as a column.

Jim wrote, “The biggest traffic problem in Kitsap County is just simply poor driving habits.  If we could somehow institute a massive driver re-education program, maybe we could make some progress when it comes to traffic congestion..

“The average driver in western Washington,” Jim asserted, “speeds up for red lights, but slows down for green lights.  They have no idea what turn signals are used for. They will not turn right on a red light unless there’s a sign which says ‘no turn on red’.  Driving at a constant speed must be a lost skill as well.

“They merge onto the freeway at 35 miles an hour,” he said, “then immediately move out to the passing lane where they drive 5 mph under the speed limit.  Is there some unwritten rule which states we must always drive 5 mph under the posted speed limit?  They exit the freeway in the same manner they enter.  They slow down to off-ramp speed a mile short of the desired exit.”

The out basket: My reply:

“Well, Jim, I don’t share your view of the ‘average Western Washington driver.’

“The only place I find drivers doing 5 under too often is on Highway 166 between Port Orchard and Gorst. Many of your complaints result from the first car in a long line doing what you see and everyone else being stuck behind the first driver, for example, not turning on red, driving under the speed limit and merging too slowly on an on-ramp.

“It’s funny you didn’t include drivers who won’t get out of the passing lane, which I see more often than any of your complaints, though I also don’t have much trouble getting around them.

“If I could personally instruct all other drivers,” I said, “I would make sure they know that:

– Stopping at a traffic signal in the right lane traps would-be right turners on red behind them

– Leaving more than three seconds gap between them and the car ahead at a green light can cause the light to change to red right after they get through.

– They don’t have to stop for a school bus heading in the other direction if there is a lane between them.

– Traffic moves faster if they fill both lanes equally where one lane is about to end, rather than moving over early.

– Driving 3-8 miles per hour over the speed limit (depending on the location and definitely not in school zones) reduces conflict on the road.

“But, all in all,” I concluded, “I find driving to be fairly easy around here.”

If you wish to disagree with Jim or me, that’s what the comment function on this blog is for.