WASHINGTON (DC News Now) — It’s something most drivers are used to: being able to turn right at most intersections, even if the light is red. But by 2025, the decades-old practice — which was originally legalized in response to an oil crisis — could be banned in the District.
D.C. Councilmember Mary Cheh (Ward 3) introduced the “Safer Intersections Amendment Act of 2022” earlier this year. If passed, it would change two laws on our nation’s capital’s roads.
Most notably, the bill would make nearly every intersection in D.C. a “no turn on red” intersection. Councilmember Cheh believes that right turns on red — which were legalized in D.C. in 1979 — no longer serve a purpose today. She says they’re to blame for dangerous accidents between cars and those who share the sidewalks and bike lanes.
“Allowing right turns on red is a safety hazard, increasing the likelihood of crashes, and putting road users at heightened risk of injury or death,” Cheh said in a memo about the bill.
According to the District Department of Transportation (DDOT), 17 pedestrians and 3 cyclists died on D.C. roadways last year during some sort of traffic accident. This year, already 12 pedestrians and 3 cyclists have been killed. It’s an issue that’ll take center stage when the D.C. Council reconvenes in September.
Councilmember Cheh — who’s also the Chair of the Committee on Transportation and the Environment — also wants to implement what’s known as the “Idaho Stop”, which allows bikers to treat stop signs as yield signs.
“This change would recognize that our existing traffic laws were designed for cars, not bikes; thus, many of our current laws include behavior requirements ill-fit for ensuring the safety of roadway users other than drivers and modifying those laws will help improve safety for all roadway users,” she wrote.
The bill, if passed, would allow DDOT time to make exceptions to the “no turn on red” rule at intersections where it’s deemed that in doing so, safety would be improved at that location.