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Field evaluation of two methods for restricting right turn on red to promote pedestrian safety

Retting, Richard A.; Nitzburg, Marsha S.; Farmer, Charles M.; Knoblauch, Richard L.
ITE Journal
January 2002

Throughout the U.S., with the exception of New York City, right turn on red (RTOR) is usually allowed unless otherwise prohibited by a posted traffic sign. State RTOR laws require that drivers come to a complete stop and yield to approaching traffic before turning on red. Although a number of potential benefits emanate from the practice of RTOR, including reduced emissions and/or traffic delays, RTOR increases the risk of crashes and injuries, especially in urban areas. Following adoption of national RTOR policy, significant increases in pedestrian and bicycle crashes were reported at signalized intersections. This is due to the fact that many drivers do not come to a stop before turning right on red; this is both a traffic violation and a potential safety hazard. Another negative impact of RTOR is that drivers often fail to stop at the marked stop line, thereby blocking the pedestrian crosswalk while waiting to turn. This can impede movement and cause pedestrians to walk outside of designated crosswalks. RTOR can be prohibited either at all times, during certain hours, or when pedestrians are present. Relatively little is known about the operational and safety effects of prohibiting RTOR when pedestrians are present as compared with unconditional RTOR restrictions or restrictions confined to specified hours. The aim of this study was to evaluate 2 methods for restricting RTOR at urban intersections: traffic signs restricting RTOR at specified times, and highly visible traffic signs restricting RTOR when pedestrians are present.