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Avoiding danger at a red-light intersection

Right turn
Experienced riders know all too well that intersections are a high-risk place. It’s a basic lesson that’s taught in rider education courses and emphasizes the danger of another driver violating the motorcyclist’s right-of-way in an intersection.

One of the most common risks is when a driver approaches an intersection opposite of us and turns left across our path. It’s something we always have to be prepared for.

But there’s another risk we need to be aware of—right on red violations.

Right on red laws

Laws allowing right turns on red traffic lights became common across the country in the mid-1970s, primarily as a response to the fuel shortages of that era. In almost all cases, a driver must come to a full stop at a red light before turning right and must yield the right-of-way to oncoming traffic on the road they’re entering. There are exceptions in a few states that prohibit these turns under certain circumstances.

Understanding the risk

As motorcycle riders, we should remember any vehicle approaching an intersection from our right could turn into our path of travel. Here are some reasons why:

  • Motorcycles are much smaller than cars or trucks and can be misperceived as being further away than they really are.
  • A driver planning to make the right on red may look right at you and misjudge your distance and speed, turning into your path.
  • At night, your single headlight may become visually blended with a vehicle behind you with a right turn signal blinking—the driver turning right on red doesn’t see you and pulls into your path.

How to limit the risk

There are things you can do to help protect yourself. When riding, consider:

  • Approaching all intersections with alert caution
  •  Reducing your speed
  • Maintaining 360-degree awareness
  • Actively scanning for traffic approaching the intersection from all directions
  • Using the center lane on multi-lane roads to increase your space cushion and visibility
  • Turning off your turn signal after you complete a turn

Right turns on red lights have saved untold amounts of fuel and time for drivers. Save yourself from the risks of right on red violations by being alert when approaching traffic light intersections.

Till next time, ride safe!

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