Correct turn on red? As pedestrian deaths rise, US cities are considering bans

Correct turn on red?  As pedestrian deaths rise, US cities are considering bans

CHICAGO (AP) — Sophie Langerman was on her way to a bicycle safety rally in Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood in June when a car turning right through a red light swerved and hit her bike, which was traveling off the sidewalk and into a crosswalk.

The car was moving slowly enough that Langerman escaped serious injury, but the bike required extensive repairs. For Langerman, this is another argument for ending a practice that almost all American cities have adopted for decades: the legal privilege of a driver to turn right after stopping at a red light.

A significant increase in accidents Killing or injuring bystanders Cyclists have led to countless policy and infrastructure changes, but moves to ban red directly have sparked some of the sharpest emotions on both sides.

The Washington, D.C., City Council last year approved a ban on right turns on red, which will take effect in 2025. A transition plan drawn up by new Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson called for “restricting right turns on red,” but his administration did not provide details. The university city of Ann Arbor, Michigan, now prohibits right turns at red lights in the downtown area.

San Francisco Leaders recently voted to urge their transit agency to ban red citywide, and other major cities like Los Angeles, Seattle and Denver have considered bans as well.

“Drivers shouldn’t have the choice to decide for themselves when they think it’s safe,” said Langerman, 26. “People are busy. There should be no other choice.” “People are distracted.”

But Jay Pepper, executive director of policy at the National Motorists Association, a driver advocacy organization, called it a “fallacy” to assume such a blanket ban would make the streets safer.

He cited an upcoming study by his association that analyzed California crash data from 2011 to 2019 and found that drivers who turn right at a red light cause only one pedestrian death and less than one bicyclist death statewide every two years.

“What’s really behind this movement is part of the agenda to make driving as miserable and difficult as possible so people don’t drive as much,” Bieber said.

Safety advocates argue that official crash reports are often misclassified, underestimating the number of accidents Risks.

The United States is one of the few major countries that generally allow red right turns. Fearing that cars stopping at stop lights would exacerbate the energy crisis, the U.S. government warned states in the 1970s that they would risk some federal funding if cities banned the right to red lights, except in designated, clearly marked areas. Although another energy-conscious provision setting speed limits at 55 mph has long been abandoned, the red color persists.

“It’s an example of bad policy,” said Bill Schultheis, director of engineering at Toll Design Group, which consults with public transit agencies. It made sense in the context of the gas crisis, but it was a huge exaggeration of what it could achieve. “It is a mandate that does not take into account the full consequences.”

Being on red has never been allowed in much of New York City, with large signs alerting visitors to Manhattan that the practice is prohibited there. But it was the default policy practically everywhere else in the United States until last year’s vote in the nation’s capital.

Safety advocates who pushed for the change in Washington, D.C., are bracing for backlash from drivers, especially if the city also allows a so-called Idaho stop, where cyclists are allowed to run through a red light after stopping to make sure the coast is safe. Clear.

“There are just some battles, in terms of public opinion, where you have to be content to sacrifice that for people’s safety,” said Jonathan Kincaid, communications coordinator for the Washington Area Cyclists League. “It doesn’t make sense to treat cars and bikes the same way. They’re not the same car, and we’ve seen the results of that.”

Critics say that banning straight red traffic would not only inconvenience motorists but would also slow down commuter buses and deliveries. United Parcel Service has not taken an official position on red right but has long directed its drivers to avoid left turns whenever possible, deeming them ineffective.

Priya Sarathi Jones, deputy executive director at the Fines and Fees Justice Center, is concerned that penalties for the right-on-red ban would fall disproportionately on low-income drivers who have to drive to work because they can’t afford housing near transit. General. If there were more actions at red lights, more cameras would surely follow, she said. In the Chicago area, any discussion of red-light policy often brings up memories of the region’s much-maligned red-light camera program, which led to bribery charges against public officials accused of trying to influence high-profit contracts.

“It makes a lot more money for the city, rather than our decisions being driven by evidence-backed safety strategies,” she said, suggesting that improving road infrastructure would be a more effective way to reduce accidents.

There are no recent national studies on the number of people injured or killed by right-turn drivers.

According to a national report from the Governors Highway Safety Association, more than 7,500 people walking were struck by cars in 2022, the highest number since 1981. All accidents included — and not just those that involve turning right on red, partly due to an increase in the number of larger vehicles like SUVs and pickup trucks on the road.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found that the odds of a pedestrian being killed when struck by a car turning right was 89% higher when the car was a small car and 63% higher when it was an SUV, due to larger, more lethal blind spots. Strength associated with heavier models.

“These big, blunt front hoods, they’re hitting people and running over them, unlike before when people would collapse on the hood,” said Mike McGinn, former Seattle mayor and executive director of America Walks, a national nonprofit. Which calls for pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods.

Much of the research directly examining the impact of right-wing politics on reds goes back years if not decades, but both sides argue that it is still relevant.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in a 1994 report to Congress looked at four years of crash data from Indiana, Maryland and Missouri and three years of data from Illinois, counting a total of 558 crashes and four deaths resulting from right turns on red. Advocates of the ban point out that the study came before the country’s vehicle fleet grew larger and more deadly.

But Pepper said the California National Motorists Association study found that even when there was an accident related to a right turn on red, at least 96% of the injuries to pedestrians or cyclists were minor.

“One injury or one death is too many,” said Washington state Sen. John Lovick, the lead sponsor of a bill this year that would have banned the wearing of red statewide near schools, parks and some other sites. “If it were me at that intersection, I would want to do something.”

Lovick’s bill never made it out of committee, but Seattle this year made it the default policy to ban the right to red when new traffic signals are added.

Melinda Casray testified on behalf of Lovick’s bill at a legislative hearing, sharing her experience when she was hit by a car turning right on red in Seattle. She needed a total knee replacement, had to give up her job of 20 years and move to a small town, partly because of her new fears of crossing the street.

“He only needed to wait 20 more seconds and he would have gotten the green light, and that second had a huge impact on me,” Kasraie said.

    (Tags for translation) Chicago 

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