Could Right Turn On Red Be Ending In Michigan?
The privilege of making a right-hand turn on a red light may be coming to an end in Michigan. In October of 2022, Ann Arbor, Michigan, the home of the University of Michigan, banned right turns on red at 50 intersections downtown, where college students frequently cross.
The Associated Press reports that due to a dramatic rise in automobile accidents killing or injuring pedestrians and bicyclists, a debate has risen over whether to ban right on red in cities across America.
It Was a Close Call for This Bicyclist
The AP cites one instance of a “turn-on-red injury”. Sophee Langerman was on her way to a bicycle safety rally in Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood in June when a car turning right rolled through a red light and slammed into her bike, which she was walking off the curb and into the crosswalk.
The car was moving slowly enough that Langerman escaped serious injury, but the bicycle required extensive repairs. To Langerman, it's another argument for ending a practice that almost all U.S. cities have embraced for decades: the legal prerogative for a driver to turn right after stopping at a red light.
Banning "Turn on Red" Builds Across the Nation
Along with Ann Arbor, Washington D.C.’s City Council has approved a right-on-red ban that takes effect in 2025. Chicago, San Francisco, and Seattle are also considering a ban. But Jay Beeber, executive director for policy at the National Motorists Association, an advocacy organization for drivers, called it a “fallacy” to assume such blanket bans would make streets safer.
Beeber cited an upcoming study, conducted by his association, that used California crash data from 2011-2019. It found that drivers turning right on red accounted for only about one pedestrian death and less than one bicyclist death statewide every two years. Beeber feels,
What's really behind this movement is part of the agenda to make driving as miserable and as difficult as possible so people don't drive so much.
What Is the Real Cause of Increased Pedestrian Injuries and Deaths?
A report by the Governors Highway Safety Association has offered another reason why pedestrian deaths have increased since 1981. It is the increase of larger vehicles, such as SUV’s and pickup trucks.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found that the odds a pedestrian would be killed when struck by an automobile turning right was 89% higher when the vehicle was a pickup and 63% higher when it was an SUV, due to larger blind spots and the deadlier force associated with heavier models.
What’s Next? A Ban on Large Vehicles?
As the controversy of turning right on red grows across the nation, it may be just a matter of time before the Michigan legislature takes up the issue. If a ban on right-hand turns on a red light fails to have much of an impact on pedestrian and bicyclist injuries and deaths, what is the next step? A ban on any vehicle larger than a Mini-Cooper?
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Gallery Credit: Jacob Harrison