Gee & Ursula: Right turns on red may become a thing of the past

Feb 2, 2023, 3:35 PM
right on red...
Drivers and bicycles interact in South Lake Union. (Photo by Bill Kaczaraba)
(Photo by Bill Kaczaraba)

Under new legislation proposed in the state Senate, right turns on red at many intersections may become a thing of the past in Washington.

The bill would prohibit drivers from turning right at red lights within 1,000 feet of specific buildings, including schools, hospitals, and public transit centers.

If it passes, Washington would be the first state to significantly roll back the right of drivers to turn right at red lights.

“I think a lot of people get really upset about the idea of not being able to turn right,” Ursula Reutin said on The Gee & Ursula Show.

“The reason for the bill, Senator John Lovick (D-Mill Creek) says, is that they’re trying to find a way to improve safety on our roads,” KIRO Newsradio Senior Transportation Reporter Chris “Sully” Sullivan said. “We’ve had a record number of almost 1,400 people die on our roads. More than in the last two years. Not all of them, of course, dying at intersections.”

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Traffic fatalities in Washington are at a three-decade high. The Senate committee held public testimony on the bill this week.

Sponsors hope the bill would reduce collisions and close calls between cars and pedestrians or cyclists.

“There was a bicyclist who testified at this hearing who was hitting a crosswalk. She jumped and came across the intersection, and the driver had been looking the other way and hit her,” Sully said. “Fortunately, she was ok. But she was like, that person had no ill intent. They told me after the accident, they were just trying to get home from work. They’re running late. And it was an accident.”

Most people would agree we want to make our roads safer, but many feel having a statewide law prohibiting right turns on red may be going too far.

“It makes more sense in a big city like Seattle, but do you need this in a place like Port Townsend?” Sully said. “And I’m really not in favor of this passing. But what I am in favor of is drivers look at their own behavior and think about what they are doing.”

Some people have never driven in a place where right on red was illegal.

“I’m for it. I’m for making roads safer. And this is a no-brainer,” Gee Scott said. “You’re going to get immediate results from this.”

The bill hasn’t been scheduled for a vote, but if it does pass, it would become law in July 2024.

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“And if this doesn’t pass, I hope this discussion does one thing for our drivers,” Sully said. “I hope it helps you remind yourself about what you do when you make that free right turn.”

Listen to Gee Scott and Ursula Reutin weekday mornings from 9 a.m. – 12 p.m. on KIRO Newsradio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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Gee & Ursula: Right turns on red may become a thing of the past