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When you cannot turn right on a red light

Stopping at a red light is a basic rule of the road that everyone who drives should be aware of. It is also common that motorists believe they can make a right turn into a different intersection while the light is still red. However, some California motorists may wonder if such turns are illegal, or if turning right on red is restricted. They may not want to turn unless they know they are legally permitted to do so.

Like many states, California permits its motorists to make right turns at a red light. After coming to a complete stop, a California driver is allowed to turn right, though there are some circumstances that prohibit making a right turn. Making sure you know these circumstances can help prevent an accident that results in serious injury and possibly loss of life.

Right of Way Traffic

According to California law, a motorist who is stopped at a red light must yield to traffic that has a green light to cross into the intersection. This applies not only to motor vehicles that may drive past, but to people riding bicycles or just individuals crossing the street on foot. Once the intersection is free of traffic that has the right of way, you may make a right turn. Take care not to shift into another lane as you turn; stay in the right-hand lane.

A No Turning Sign

At some intersections, drivers may encounter a sign that prohibits any right turns on a red light. These signs override any permission that a driver would usually have to turn when there is no right of way traffic present. Instead, a motorist must wait at the intersection until the light turns green before performing a turn.

Solid Red Arrows

Unlike a typical red light, there is no question that a motorist cannot make a right turn at all when confronted with a red arrow. California law mandates that drivers are to stop at a red arrow. Just as you would at a red light, you have to wait until you receive a green light or some other indication that you can proceed into the intersection.

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John M. Kucera, Attorney at Law
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Redding, CA 96001

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