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Is Right on Red Really Right?

Like some of you, I’ve made a new year’s resolution to be more active.  To that end, I’ve been walking more - up to three miles or so a day (yay me!).  Along with that, I’ve made a few observations along the way.  

  1. I am thankful for sidewalks.  And for those who maintain their sidewalks!  Boo to those that don’t.
  2. There is a lot of trash on our streets.  Come on, people, we’re trying to have a society here!  We can do better.
  3. I’m not convinced turning right on red is really working any more.  

I typically walk in the neighborhoods surrounding my home, but recently I needed to take care of an errand with my husband and we decided to walk.  Our errand would take us to a location on busy 72nd Street, but I worked out a route so we would only be on Pacific and 72nd Streets for a block or two each. They both have adequate sidewalks but, boy, does the traffic whiz by when you’re three feet away.  At one point, we approached the intersection of 69th and Pacific Streets, intending to cross 69th and continue heading east on Pacific. We approached the intersection and the walk signal was lit. There was a mini-van stopped appropriately at the red light and intending to turn right onto Pacific.  After hesitating to enter the crosswalk, my husband and I forged ahead since we still had the walk signal. Without seeing us, the mini-van proceeded to turn right on red after only checking for traffic to the left. Missed us both by about 6 inches.

I’ve personally witnessed this exact same situation several times.  Once with a pedestrian pushing a stroller! It’s scary. Really scary.  

I’m old enough to remember when turning right on red after a complete stop was implemented in the 70’s (Stop doing the math - I wasn’t driving yet in the 70’s, but I was observant of my parents!).  Everyone was extremely cautious and checked all directions because it seemed so foreign. It was a very conscious effort to turn right on red at that time. Now however, drivers have become complacent and tend to only check LEFT for oncoming vehicular traffic.  It never occurs to many of us to also look RIGHT for pedestrians or cyclists - a dangerous habit that many drivers have adopted. I’m sure I’ve been guilty of it myself a time or two. But never again.

If my ramblings today do nothing more than remind you to be mindful the next time you turn right on red, then my work here is done.  However, in the bigger picture, we need to ask ourselves if turning right on red is really right in today’s culture.

Onward and Upward,


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