Since January 1980, all 50 states as well as the District of Columbia, Guam, and Puerto Rico, have allowed right turns on red (RTOR), unless a sign otherwise prohibits this. However, RTOR is not the same as turning right on a green light.
Article 1111(d)(2) of Vehicle and Traffic Law governs RTOR. It mandates that you first must stop at the stop bar, if there is one, or if no stop bar is present, you must stop before the crosswalk.
Before proceeding, you must obviously make certain no traffic is approaching from the left, but you also must be certain there is no pedestrian crossing the two crosswalks that you must traverse to complete your right turn.
At some intersections there may be a green arrow. Where a green arrow is illuminated, no stop is necessary to execute the turn indicated by the green arrow.
What is becoming much too common is that motorists are ignoring the law that requires a complete stop, and too often drivers are not paying attention to pedestrians that may be crossing legally. The continued abuse of the laws that allow for a RTOR contributes to municipalities prohibiting RTOR, which in turn defeats the benefits available by allowing these turns. As abuse increases, you can expect greater enforcement. RTOR is a perfectly safe maneuver if motorists comply with the laws that govern it.
Of interest, since 1992 RTOR is governed federally under energy conservation, and all states must have a RTOR law or regulation in place which, to the maximum extent practicable consistent with safety, permits a driver to turn right on a red light after stopping, Where RTOR is permitted, it is not mandatory. If the driver is uncomfortable in turning on a red light, he/she should wait for the green signal.
In Canada, right on red is now allowed in all provinces, except where prohibited by a sign, under the same conditions that govern these turns in the U.S.
There are two important exceptions to the right-on-red law. In New York state, RTOR is prohibited in New York City. In Quebec, right on red is prohibited on the Island of Montreal.
For more articles on vehicle and traffic law and traffic safety go to the Traffic Safety Board's website at www.franklincony.org/
Know the law, and drive safely.