Traffic Inbox: When to turn right on red

By Chuck Henson, Real Time Traffic Expert.
Last Updated: Tuesday, September 02, 2014, 7:03 AM EDT

Is it OK to turn right on red when there is more than one turning lane? Our Real Time Traffic Expert answers this question.

In Tampa, the main arterial streets of Fletcher and Fowler Avenue are extremely busy at all hours. Recent renovations to the northbound I-275 exit ramps have added significant capacity to the ramp at Fowler Avenue. 

Now, what was once a single dedicated right turn lane is now three turn lanes. Traffic stops at the light, then when safe to do so, it makes a right turn on red. 

In theory, that should allow more traffic to pass through the intersection. However, there is confusion among drivers in the left and left-center turn lanes.  Are they allowed to turn right on red?  

Many cars won't make the turn as permitted, so the back ups increase, as does driver frustration.

Diane Krouse drives the ramp everyday for work. She'd like to see all three lanes more clearly marked.

"I think that it needs to be clearly marked so that we know if there's no turn on red or if we're allowed to proceed through, turn on red," she said. "We need a sign that lets us know what to do here."

Watching traffic for any length of time shows the issue. Of the three available turn lanes, traffic in the right lane makes the turn on red, while the other two lanes eventually make the tentative decision to proceed.

Is it legal for all three lanes to turn right on red?  The answer from Sgt. Steve Gaskins with the Florida Highway Patrol is...yes.

"State statutes say a vehicle may turn right on red where permitted unless otherwise indicated by the traffic control devices," he said.