About Gary

Semi-retired electrical engineer, deeply involved with rock climbing and cycling

The no right turn on red and the left turn arrow

Please do not obey the traffic regulations. That may sound like a strange request, but it is necessary. Traffic laws are supposed to promote safe and orderly driving, but they are not doing it. It has become the responsibility of individual drivers to determine which regulations should be obeyed and which should be ignored. I am going to talk about two problems today, the no right turn on red (NRTR) and the left turn arrow.

I personally have been driving in New York for 25 years and have seen hundreds of NRTR signs. Of those, I believe one or two were appropriate. A right turn on red is not a complicated undertaking; look to the left and right to be sure the road is clear; check oncoming traffic to see if it looks like they have a protected left turn; check around for pedestrians and bicycles and make the turn. Oh, and check that is police car is not sitting right behind you. Drivers face decisions more difficult than this several times on even the shortest trips. And yet DOT keeps putting up more and more NRTR signs. As you know, many drivers already ignore the no right turn signs; they realize the signs are stupid and unnecessary. Unfortunately, some drivers do obey them. If you are in an area that you are not familiar with it might be wise to obey a NRTR sign. But most of your trips are in the local area, over streets you have driven a hundred time before. Do your own evaluation at these intersections; do not let DOT do it for you.

The second poor regulation is the green left turn arrow. There is no problem when the arrow is green, that works very well. The problem is the arrow turns red, prohibiting the left turn. Try this as an experiment – notice how many times you are at an intersection ready to make a left turn but prohibited by the red arrow, but you can look ahead all the way to Indiana and see that there is no oncoming traffic. And yet you have to sit there through the green light, then sit there while there is a green light for the traffic from the left and right, and then finally the cycle comes around again to where the left turn arrow is green. You wasted time, wasted fuel and polluted the environment hindered by a regulation that did nothing for traffic safety. After all, a left turn at an intersection is something we have done thousands of times. In many cases you will in fact make left turns in situations more difficult than the one you were just prohibited from doing!

At other intersections you will notice that the protected left turn arrow will just fade out and disappear, so drivers are allowed to use their judgment on the turn. And everything works well. This is another example that DOT does not have a clue what they are doing, they are not even consistent! While many drivers ignore NRTR signs, I have not noticed many drivers disobeying the red arrows. Well, except me of course; in the past year I have run 50 to 100 of them. It is very easy, just turn left like you usually would. Nobody except the drivers right behind you can even tell you ignored the arrow, others cannot see it. Again it is a good idea to check for police cars behind you.

So if you would like to join the program, make traffic flow safer and faster, save the environment and thumb your nose at the rules, start doing it. Give yourself one point for each NRTR and two for a red left turn arrow. Try to accumulate three points a day.

This is the first in an occasional discussion of traffic.