Column: Is turning proper on a crimson gentle your California birthright? Absolutely not!


It’s harmful on the market on the imply streets of, properly, nearly any metropolis the place vehicles and pedestrians work together.

Over the final decade, all U.S. visitors deaths have elevated by 13%, in response to the Governors Highway Safety Assn., however pedestrian deaths have risen by a whopping 54%.

And nobody is aware of precisely why.

In an try to reverse the lethal pattern, cities are searching for methods to intervene. One promising change that’s catching on: prohibiting drivers from turning proper on crimson lights.

Opinion Columnist

Robin Abcarian

Last week, Berkeley joined the trouble with an preliminary City Council vote. It follows San Francisco, San Jose, Ann Arbor, Mich., and Washington, D.C., all of which have taken steps to scale back the chance of vehicles crashing into pedestrians and cyclists by, to 1 diploma or one other, outlawing rights on reds.

“Policies like eliminating right on red are smart and easy ways to begin the process of deprioritizing car use in Berkeley and placing lives above driver convenience,” Berkeley Councilmember Terry Taplin wrote in his proposal.

So far, the info are promising.

A study of a pilot program testing the ban in Washington, D.C., discovered that the variety of instances drivers didn’t yield to pedestrians when the sunshine was crimson dropped dramatically, in response to Route Fifty, a web site that covers tech and innovation in states and cities. Weirdly, the examine additionally discovered that 30% extra drivers encroached on the crosswalk as they inched ahead attempting to show proper. That, mentioned the examine authors, was in all probability as a result of these drivers began to show on the crimson gentle however then realized it was unlawful and acquired caught within the crosswalk.

“As a pedestrian, you have a light to cross the street, but you have a driver who’s inching out into the intersection looking in exactly the opposite direction to see if there are any cars coming,” Colin Browne of the Washington Area Bicyclist Assn. told Route Fifty. “So you have to decide: Is this person going to see me or not?”

Personally, I feel the ban is a good suggestion and would like to see it enacted in Los Angeles.

I wager I’m not the one driver who feels a twinge of tension when the sunshine turns crimson as I method a proper flip. There’s quite a lot of data to soak up. Is somebody crossing the road in entrance of me? Is a bicycle owner developing behind me on my proper facet within the bike lane? Are the drivers who’re stopped behind me getting antsy as a result of I haven’t turned but? And why does this all really feel so intense?

When I see a sign prohibiting a proper activate a crimson gentle, I’m relieved. One much less stress level in my life behind the wheel.

Although all states permit proper activates crimson lights, many Californians particularly think about the follow their birthright. Perhaps we declare the rule as our personal as a result of California was in all probability the primary state to embrace the follow, in 1939.

During the power disaster of 1973, when drivers lined as much as purchase gasoline on specified days, visitors engineers got here up with the doubtful (to me, anyway) proposition that permitting proper activates crimson lights would save gas. The federal authorities codified the follow within the Energy Policy and Conservation Act of 1975 when it required states to allow proper activates crimson lights as a way to obtain federal help for mandated conservation packages.

That appears fairly dumb on reflection, and one more instance of how the car has at all times been prioritized over pedestrian security in our car-obsessed tradition.

“Permitting right turns on red has always been a dangerous idea, which is why, when the first traffic lights and traffic laws rolled out, it was not allowed,” Jessie Singer informed me in an e-mail Thursday. Singer actually wrote the ebook on how “accidents” occur in America. “It is no coincidence,” she continued, “that in New York City, the most pedestrian-dense city in the U.S., right on red has long and largely been disallowed.”

The follow is inherently harmful to pedestrians as a result of, as Singer places it, it “leaves the sanctity of the crosswalk and the life of a pedestrian in the hands of a fallible driver.”

In Singer’s ebook, “There Are No Accidents: The Deadly Rise of Injury and Disaster — Who Profits and Who Pays the Price,” she argues that the tragedies we think about “accidents” are nearly at all times preventable.

“In the so-called ‘accident-prone’ areas of our lives,” she informed me, “we can protect people by reducing their exposure to harm. One way that harm is introduced is when we take a safe system, like the rule that red means stop, and modify it to serve feelings like convenience or desire — suddenly the rule is a matter of opinion and judgment, a choice about feelings of safety to be made again and again by individual drivers, and whim to their mood, their needs, or the quality of their day.”

Berkeley’s ban awaits one other funding vote earlier than town begins posting “no right turn on red” indicators in any respect its intersections with lights. The council members are braced for “pushback,” however they’re proper: Outlawing rights on reds is a straightforward, cost-effective technique to save lives.

Los Angeles, are you listening?



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