2011-07-13 / Front Page

No Right Turns On Red For NYC In Near Future

Out-of-towners who visit the city are usually surprised to learn that when driving, no right turns are allowed on a red light unless a sign says otherwise. New York City is the only place in the United States where right turns on red are illegal. Right turns on red have been legal in the Western U.S. for more than fifty years and were more recently made law in the Eastern U.S.
In 1973 and 1979, the U.S. had two oil crises that crippled the economy and led to a steep increase in fuel prices, resulting in the adoption of the right on red rule by the eastern states. The law was enacted to avoid wasting gas with cars idling at lights when they could continue driving safely. Other conservation methods to ration and preserve gas were suggested and implemented during this time period. For example, coupons for rationing gas were printed, but were never actually distributed or used. Many elected officials and political leaders advocated odd-even rationing, in which only vehicles with license plates ending in odd numbers could get gas on odd days, and vice versa.
When the right on red law was enacted in Massachusetts in 1980, 96 percent of intersections in Boston required signs to be put up signaling that right turns on red were not allowed there. New York City would also require a similar percentage of signs, which would have been funded by taxpayers. To avoid the expense, New York was made exempt from the new rule for the sake of its economy.
New York City was given an exemption from the new right turn on red rule in 1980, but many argue that the city should conform and adopt the law. Although the change has some support, there is no real action being taken to facilitate it and it does not seem like right turns on red lights will be allowed in the city anytime soon.
—Micaela Mastrogiannis

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