What can be done to stem pedestrian accidents at intersections?

I spent some time this weekend watching what drivers do at intersections, in this case an intersection in Woodbury, where red lights are considered mere suggestions anyway.

Almost unanimously in my 10-minute survey, drivers never stopped at the red light before turning right on red. And those who did never looked to the right; they were only interested in making sure no car was coming from the left.

This is how innocent people die in Minnesota on a surprisingly regular basis.

The latest to die in an accident involving a vehicle turning at an intersection (this one a left turn) was an 18-year-old girl in Forest Lake who was just trying to get home from summer school by crossing this intersection.

The driver, a 65-year-old woman, turned right and struck the girl, WCCO reports.


An MPR News survey a few years ago found that a third of the pedestrian-vehicle incidents in Minnesota were caused by drivers failing to yield.

Police and public safety agencies usually respond to these things with a public education campaign. But those don’t work. Drivers are in a hurry. Who’s got time to be smart about it?

Here’s an idea: Let’s eliminate the right-turn-on-red law in Minnesota.

First of all, few drivers actually follow it, considering the red light the equivalent of a “yield” sign (it’s not). And the design of cars makes the maneuver an unsafe one when turning right (or left). The post of the windshield is directly in the line of sight between the driver and the pedestrian trying to cross the road legally.

And the amount of data the human brain has to process at an intersection is far more than nearly any other act of driving. Giving it a little more time to do so wouldn’t be a terribly illogical thing.

Right-turn-on-red laws had nothing to do with safety when they were established in the ’70s. They were in response to the energy crisis of the day. A car stopped is a car wasting fuel. But cars are more efficient now and the value of a human life hasn’t gotten any cheaper.

Don’t like that idea? Here’s another one from my youth.

Do you know what this used to mean?

It means walk. Nobody moves, except the person crossing the street.

It was mostly phased out in the ’60s in the United States because drivers were important and had places to get to. In fact, all of the changes in traffic lights since have been based on the notion that drivers have places to be.

Pedestrians? Not so much.

Consider when you get a “walk” light at a signaled intersection now: When the traffic light turns green for the driver most likely to mow you down turning right, you get to walk.

Either suggestion will delay drivers for a half-minute or so. But, so what? What makes them so much more important than a kid trying to get home from school?

Related: The right turn on red and some free ideas (streets.mn)

Mom: Forest Lake teen was ‘most courageous person I ever met’ (Fox 9)

  • Al

    …How do people not stop at red lights?

    • Paul Weimer

      A quote from my brother:
      “After midnight, red lights are stop signs and stop signs are yields”

    • mattaudio

      People get behind a steering wheel and their brain shuts off.

  • KTFoley

    “The post of the windshield is directly in the line of sight between the driver and the pedestrian trying to cross the road legally.”

    So, so true. Very scary to spot a pedestrian / biker / car emerging from behind the post a millisecond after I thought it was clear.

    • Jerry

      Due to the presence of air bags, and the increased rake of windshields, the A pillar on some models really obstructs visibility more than it used to.

  • 212944

    Or, how about some traffic law enforcement?

    I, too, live in Woodbury but drive across St. Paul into MPLS daily and back. There simply is very little traffic enforcement out there. Illegal turns, speeding, tailgating, blocking the box, not yielding to pedestrians in the crosswalk … and that is just the illegal behavior I see multiple times daily (a whole lot of it in Woodbury). Add in those with poor driving skills and it is much worse.

    But I rarely ever see police doing anything related to traffic – city, county or troopers.

    Public safety shouldn’t be on an opt-in basis, ever.

  • lindblomeagles

    Bob’s right. I hate to say it, but ever since the SUV came out, adults wantonly flout driving laws. It’s not even that adults are necessarily in a hurry either. There is a large sense of entitlement with a lot of adult American drivers — “I made it. I have a car. Get out of my way!” Some will argue traffic enforcement should be better, but that means putting a cop (or camera) at every traffic light (both are enormously costly for a public uninterested in sacrificing a few more pennies for the common good) and sinking out traffic court under a mountain of paper and hearings. As it is, the lobbies of traffic court are chocked with individuals paying fines for moving violations. We could save a large chunk of change eliminating right turns on red and signs on every light, PLUS up the fine, substantially, to gain some of that money back, while saving lives in the process.

  • Kassie

    Today on the sidewalk walking into work I had to make way for both a golf cart and a bicyclist. Pedestrians are the lowest form of life out on the streets.

    • CHS

      Wait, you had to make way for a bicyclist and golf cart ON the sidewalk?

      • Kassie

        True fact. It was a fun THREE BLOCK walk in the beautiful city of St. Paul this morning.

        • CHS

          Ouch, lowest form of life indeed.

          St Paul is such a mess right now with all the construction, it’s a wonder people aren’t getting hit left and right.

      • Mike Worcester

        In the little town where I work we have an ordinance that prohibits bike riding on the downtown sidewalks but its not enforced and pretty much every parent I know tells their kiddos to ride on said sidewalks because of how stupidly unsafe it is for them to ride on the streets.

        Several years ago when our main drag was being rebuilt I asked about installing a striped bike lane (there was more than ample room), like what is seen in many larger cities and you would have thought I was talking Martian to the city head honchos.

  • Anna

    It makes no sense to have a right turn on red at that busy intersection which is spitting distance from Forest Lake Montessori School, Century Junior High and Forest Lake High School. I teach in the Forest Lake School District and I know how busy that intersection is at rush hours and noon.

    Kids walk to the southside neighborhoods up 8th St. SE. (U.S. 61) even during the regular school year. St.
    Peter’s Catholic School (K-8) is also just a few blocks up 8th St. SE.

    Summer school for middle school and high school is taught at Century Junior High.

    With the MN 97 and U.S. 61 construction going on right now, people are even in more of a hurry due to the slow down from the construction.

    Unfortunately, school zones are not in effect for summer school classes and they should be.

    There are various intersections across the Twin Cities area that are restricted for right turn on red. Some are restricted at rush hour between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. and 6 p.m.

    Why “No Turn on Red” hasn’t been instituted at this light does not make sense. This was a tragedy that could have been avoided.

    • Jeff

      I live in the area and agree completely. But right turn on red aside I have to say that intersection is terrible. It’s a busy road intersected at an angle by a side road (based on the highway patrol incident report I circled it here – Edit I was wrong – should be opposite corner left turn.).

      I recall years ago that there was plan to straighten the intersection and upgrade the signaling but it cost too much. As Anna says with all the school traffic there and young drivers coming in and out of the high school I never really understood what was a higher priority.

  • Ben Chorn

    It’s an issue everywhere. In Chicago cops stopped for 75 minutes and issued 83 citations for failing to stop for pedestrians: https://www.dnainfo.com/chicago/20160623/wicker-park/they-never-stop-cops-ticket-drivers-who-wont-yield-pedestrians

    I’ve also seen signs around Chicago saying you cannot turn on red if pedestrians are present, but they are usually at major intersections.

  • Paul

    Everyone needs to just slow down in their daily to and froms.

    • MikeB

      When enough people go to jail for hitting pedestrians people will start to slow down.

      • bjnord

        I hope that’s not what it will take. 🙁

        • Rob

          Hope is fine, but jail is what it will take.

  • bjnord

    Every day I walk at an intersection that’s a “T” coming off a freeway; traffic going 65 mph comes down the ramp to the light and must turn left or right. And the right turners almost NEVER look for pedestrians. It’s bad enough when they’re turning right on red, and only watch for cars coming from the left, as Bob says.

    But eliminating no right on red won’t solve this problem, because when the light turns green, they take that as permission to zoom around their right turn… they never notice the white “walk” sign, let alone a person (me). After some close calls, I don’t enter this intersection any more until I’ve made eye contact with the driver, and often I have to wait for 2-3 cars to zip by me before one will see me waiting to cross, and stop.

    • In that situation, my red/yellow light solves the problem perfectly. Just as it did until it was eliminated.

      • bjnord

        Agreed; but good luck getting that implemented. I think the issue is that our culture values cars above pedestrians; until that changes, laws and practices will continue to require “caveat pedestrian”.

      • Kassie

        I believe the intersection of Franklin and the River Road basically has one of these. There are lights for each direction, then one for pedestrians and bicyclists.

  • blindeke

    Another easy change is the “leading pedestrian interval” (LPI). Minneapolis is starting to install these in its walkable areas like the University of Minnesota and parts of uptown (I believe).

    • KTFoley

      How does an LPI work?

      The intersection of Grand and Victoria has a different walk pattern from most everyplace else that I’ve noticed: when my lane’s traffic light is red and the crossing lane’s traffic light has just turned red as well, the walk sign will turn white for pedestrians for about 5 seconds before the traffic light turns green. It seems to give the pedestrians a head start into the crosswalk before the cars move. Is that an LPI?

      This intersection is marked for no turn on red, and the crosswalk is sometimes continuously occupied through the entire green light. I’m not sure whether the change is meant to fix that, and if so, whether it’s working. Maybe It’s safer because the pedestrians are more squarely in view before a car has permission to turn?

      • KTFoley

        Also, the fact that I’ve seen this exactly once harkens back to an earlier post on the state of traffic signals in Minnesota/Twin Cities. Bob said that the green light/walk system we have here is absurd; I suggested that there is no system.

        One thing that adds to the danger is that we all — drivers, cyclists and pedestrians alike — expect the lights to behave a certain way. New technology and/or new patterns get installed in a piecemeal fashion. We don’t necessarily pause to check that what we anticipate matches what the lights are doing right this minute.

      • blindeke

        Yup that’s it all right! That’s the only one that I know of in Saint Paul, but they’re common elsewhere and becoming more common in Minneapolis. It’s a pretty easy change. it’s about increasing pedestrian visibility in crosswalks.

  • Al

    It’s not just pedestrians people don’t stop for–on Saturday, I was returning home in the right lane on Highway 36, at cruising speed (55mph), approaching my green light, and someone pulled out against their red, resulting in a high-speed swerve into the next lane for me (next lane was open, behind me was less so, so slamming on the brakes wasn’t optimal for that reason and also because I still would’ve hit the car pulling out in front of me). About 1.5 seconds away from T-boning their car at 55. With my daughter in the back. Wouldn’t THAT have been fantastic.

    I have running lights, I’m going the speed limit, I’m following the traffic signals… if a car choosing to disobey a red can’t see ME in my crossover, what hope does a pedestrian have? Not much.

  • Jeff

    I walk with my dog 4 miles a day and I cross a moderately busy road (Penn Avenue) twice daily and I’ve never had a problem with someone nearly hitting me. Maybe this is more of a problem in cities but in my experience the suburbs seem to have figured this out. BTW, I do have a friend (my roommate at the time) who was hit by a car while he was walking in a crosswalk over in 7 corners, he was knocked down and broke his tailbone. He did get the license plate and reported the incident to the police when he got to the hospital…he never found out if they caught the guy who did it. These incidents are serious problems when they happen, maybe we need sensors in the cross walks to alert the drivers in a more obvious way when there’s someone in the crosswalk or just hit the button to cross.

    • Kassie

      Did you even read the original post? It was all about people in the suburbs not following the laws and how a young woman in the suburbs was killed yesterday. But yeah, obviously the suburbs have it figure out.

      • Ryan

        Sure, Bob references the 18-year old who was killed in Forest Lake but…he references statewide numbers and nowhere does he reference this as a suburban problem. So I don’t see how it was “all about people in the suburbs”. Bob seems to be generalizing from limited, biased data, in my opinion.

        • John

          My statistially non-valid perspective, as viewed from the seat of my bicycle where I am not really a pedestrian: I ride my bike all over Minneapolis, St. Paul, the burbs, and a number of areas outside the 7 county metro area.

          I stop at stop lights, stop (or sometimes rolling stop/yield) at all stop signs, and generally try to obey the rules of the road, with the caveat that My bike and I together weigh less than 250 lbs, and a car weighs 5-10 times that, so I yield sometimes even when I don’t have to because I don’t want to get smushed. I also yield right of way to people on foot, as it’s the courteous thing to do, whether it’s legally mandated or not. Essentially, I consider myself a conscientious cyclist.

          Of all the places I ride, the outer ring suburbs are far and away the most terrifying. I can zip through downtown Minneapolis and feel relatively safe – cars in that area tend to watch for people and bikes (unless there’s a sportsball game going on – then it’s best to just stay away), it’s baked into the culture of the city at this point. In Maple Grove – I feel like I’m gambling with my life every time I pass through (trying to get to the bike trails up to Elm Creek). Outstate falls somewhere in the middle – at least the places I’ve ridden. Probably no safer than the suburbs, but far less crowded, so less opportunity for me to become a smudge on the road.

          • Ryan

            I agree you with you completely. I bike mostly Minneapolis and then out to Bloomington to go to work. I feel much safer biking in Minneapolis proper.

            But that doesn’t change the over-generalizing of the article and, the seemingly desired, impact on Kassie as revealed by her comment to Jeff.

      • Jeff

        I was just sharing my personal experiences.

  • boB from WA

    Out here on the Left Coast we also have the same problem, albeit in school zones. This city tried using photo cameras (with great success, I might add) to get people to slow down. Oh, you should have heard the screaming from the public. And yet speeds decreased and kids are safer because of it. I personally will be sorry to see these go.

  • Jeff C.

    Having been both a kid and a new-driver in Boston, I can endorse the idea of having the red-and-yellow lights here, too. They happened rarely enough that drivers notice them and know that something unusual is happening – a pedestrian is crossing the street. Traffic is only stopped when someone needs to cross the street. Pedestrians are safer. A little bit of Massachusetts makes its way into Minnesota. What’s not to love?

    • Jeff

      The yellow light change is fine…but please stop trying to import roundabouts here to Minnesota, I’ve watched intersections become much more prone to accidents when installing those roundabouts here because people have no idea how to use them. I have no idea why anyone thought it was a good idea to install a roundabout at the entrance of a retirement community, they had no clue how to enter or yield in the roundabout…they thought they were being “courteous” by stopping and letting you into the roundabout…nearly causing an accident behind them.

      • Jeff C.

        My favorite rotary (which is the correct name, thankyouverymuch) was the Fresh Pond rotary in Cambridge. Everyone who was a regular driver knew that it had its own (unposted, unofficial) rules – namely that traffic IN the rotary yielded to traffic entering the rotary from one particular direction. I avoided it at all costs when I was learning to drive since there was no way to know if which rules a driver was going to follow.

        • Boy, those were the days. But it’s not the same anymore. There are lights down at the ones on Alewife and Route 2 and they put lane markings in at the one up at Fresh Pond. What fun is that?

          Seriously, though, roundabouts have been a huge improvement over the four way stops (or two-way stops) out in my neck of the woods in Woodbury.

          The reason seems simple enough. Nobody gets T-boned in a roundabout.

          • Jeff C.

            I knew you’d remember that one fondly! Did you ever eat at Ma Magoos? I never did but I’m happy that it is still there after all these years. And Adams Fireplace Shop. And Sozio. Ah, the memories!

          • Jerry

            When I drive, I really like roundabouts because they make traffic flow much more smoothly, but they seem really pedestrian unfriendly.

          • In Woodbury, they built pedestrian tunnels all over the roundabout.

          • Jerry

            Woodbury loves roundabouts so much one of their primary shopping centers is basically a giant version.

            The road with roundabouts I drive most often is 66th in Richfield and I can’t imagine trying to cross it on foot when traffic is busy.

          • Kassie

            Also near Minnehaha Falls. I hate driving that one because it is hard to see pedestrians and bicyclists, which there are a fair number of.

          • 212944

            Not all of them and that is an issue. The one at Lake and Woodbury is a two-lane roundabout which handles cars/trucks wonderfully but is also a heavily-used bike and walking/running intersection … but has road-level crosswalks.

            The one further south on Woodbury at Bailey is that same as it the one east of it at Lake/Settlers Ridge. The first gets less foot and bike traffic but the Lake/Settlers Ridge one gets a lot, esp. children (it is close to an elementary school).

            Wrong tool for the job in at least two of those. A design like Radio/Bailey with tunnels should have been implemented.

      • Jeff

        In defense of roundabouts, they slow traffic down and statistically are many times safer than other intersections. (e.g,, https://nextstl.com/2013/10/mythbusters-tackles-four-way-stop-v-roundabout-traffic-throughput/) You can have confused old people who piss you off but they are going slow and nobody gets hurt. Eventually as people see more of them they figure it out.

        • Jeff

          Just based on my experiences, I saw an intersection which was handled very well with 2 stop signs (allowing the busier road to go through the intersection uninhibited) then they installed a roundabout. Within the first 6 months there 3 accidents in the roundabout where I had never seen one before and I saw about a dozen “near accidents” during the first year after building the roundabout.

          • That’s consistent with construction of roundabouts. In their early presence, the number of accidents is high, but the severity of accidents is reduced. Eventually drivers figure them out and both the number and severity drops.

            The Bailey Road roundabout replaced a four way stop in which traffic during rush hour backed up quite a bit, something that is also caused by traffic signals. The intersection rarely backs up now but for three or four cars and then only for less than about 20 seconds.

          • Jason Voskuil

            I am sorry to hear that. It gets better with practice. I zip through 66th and Portland (2 lane rotary) on my bike without issues.

          • Rob

            I’d rather be sideswiped at 15 MPH by a clueless schmoe in a roundabout, than T-boned by someone running a stop sign.

  • Mike Worcester

    A major two-lane trunk highway runs through the community where I work so we had installed on there cross-walk warning lights, not stop lights mind you, just those blinky/flashy ones which say to drivers “Look! A person in the crosswalk! You. Must. Stop!” Give you one guess how well people pay attention to them.

  • MarkUp

    While you illuminate the dangers involved, I don’t think making right-on-red illegal will have the biggest impact for the safety of pedestrians. Referencing crash data from 2014, you are over 6 times more likely to be hit by a driver going straight through an intersection; this resonates with some of the other traffic issues you’ve previously blogged about.

    You are also over 3 times more likely to be hit by a driver making a LEFT turn than a driver making a RIGHT turn. Where the driver is looking is the center of the right-on-red problem, but why are left-turn accidents more prominent? MNDoT is implementing the flashing yellow left turn signal, where a driver in a left turn lane treats it as a yield sign, and proceeds after yielding to oncoming traffic. Citing MNDoT: “A study conducted by the National Cooperative Highway Research Program determined that drivers had fewer crashes with flashing yellow left-turn arrows than with traditional yield-on-green signal configurations.” http://www.dot.state.mn.us/trafficeng/signals/flashingyellowarrow.html
    I don’t believe this traffic signal has been connected to any pedestrian involved accidents, but it’s strange to consider this a safer practice in relation to right-on-red.

    Maybe you’re right and making right-on-red illegal will reduce the number of accidents in that category, but this measure won’t address the lion’s share of the problems facing pedestrians.

    Crash facts can be found here: https://dps.mn.gov/divisions/ots/reports-statistics/Pages/crash-facts.aspx
    I’m referencing the 2014 facts.

    • Do you think the data for flashing arrow is robust enough. We’ve only had them at very limited number of intersections locally and not for long.

      It makes sense to me that a flashing yellow is safer than a solid green. but you know what I bet is even safer? A solid red arrow and a solid green arrow.

      So why don’t we do that?

      • Mike Worcester

        The dearth of Flashing Yellow Arrows definitely does not give us enough data to work on. I drive through at least two intersections each day that could desperately use them as it seems the in-pavement sensors never seem to work right and you sit. And sit. And sit. But they are also outside of populated areas so their impact on pedestrian incidents would be different.

        Now roundabout (aka rotary) intersections with crosswalks? Those can be tough for both because of the angles involved.

        Either way, folks need to really try and be aware of their surroundings when driving.

        • Postal Customer

          Flashing arrows are also good for another reason. Most MN drivers don’t GO when the light turns green, especially at left turns. They sit. And sit. And sit.

          • killershrew

            That’s because you have to yield to oncoming traffic if you’re turning left at a green light.

          • Postal Customer

            Not on a green arrow.

      • MarkUp

        The National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP) published results in 2003 on a study about protected/permissive left turn control (PPLT). I don’t think I could write five pages about left turns, let alone a 94 page research report.

        MNDoT has a Traffic Engineering Organization Signal committee that is specifically addressing the subject of yellow turn traffic signals, along with many other parts of traffic control. Their last meeting in May has notes here:

        They are considering delaying the left turn permissive mode (flashing yellow) by 4 seconds to give pedestrians and on coming traffic a head start so the left turner is forced to yield. The logic is if the pedestrian is in the crosswalk already, you have a better chance of seeing them and yielding. Of course, you still need to be watching for the pedestrian, and you still need to stop if they’re present.

      • Rob

        Amen on the green arrow.

  • Ryan

    Let me preface my comments by saying that I drive, though very rarely these days, otherwise I walk and bike. I think I can see most sides of this issue.

    First off, that data point of “a third of the pedestrian-vehicle incidents in Minnesota were caused by drivers failing to yield” is misleading, as the police would use that even if the pedestrian came running out into the intersection when the “Don’t Walk” light was flashing/solid. And that, I think, is an important bit to bring up. How many pedestrians continue to enter the crosswalk even after the “Don’t Walk” light is solid? Most in my experience. But I would be interested in knowing how many of those incidents were the motorists striking a pedestrian legally in the crosswalk. I suspect it would be fewer than that 1/3 would lead us to believe.

    But my experience tells me that whatever changes you make to laws will not change how these groups of people, motorists and pedestrians, relate to each other. Motorists need to slow down and watch for peds. Pedestrians need to be mindful of crossing legally when it is their turn. A change in the law would, perhaps, lead to greater citations of motorists involved in these crashes but I am not sure it would change the way people see each other while in public.

    And just as a point of reference, the survey you “cite” lists 2011 numbers. 859 injured and 40 killed. Let’s say that those 40 injured were not part of the 859, so we can round up to a total of 900 injured/fatalities from crashes with vehicles. And 33 of the 40 fatalities were alcohol-related incidents but let’s keep them in there. With the population of Minnesota being 5.348 million in 2011 we are only talking 1.7 thousandths of a percent of the population was impacted by this “issue”. Any injury, any death should be looked at seriously. But even without having numbers in front of me I can say with some certainty that we could save many more lives and potential injuries on our streets and roadways by reducing speed limits on highways/freeways to 40MPH and city streets to 15MPH.

    And finally, the death you lead with early in the story says nothing about the circumstances of how the 18-year old came to be struck. Without more information it really fails to put any merit to your overall thesis. In fact, looking at the video of that crosswalk, I would say it is more like that this is an infrastructure problem. That whole intersection looks to be 30 or 40 years old. It barely looks like a crosswalk! That city might want to consider some investment in modern infrastructure.

    • Fair enough.

      Now make a case for why you should be allowed to turn right on red.

      • Ryan

        More often than not there are no pedestrians. Is that a strong enough argument?

        I suppose someone might say…”but sometimes there are…and sometimes they get struck…and sometimes they get killed.”

        We make concessions in society all the time for time/resources/liberty over safety. I just think your whole article is playing on the emotion of a young woman’s death.

        Ultimately, the whole article is a solution looking for a problem.

        • Not to me. By the same theory, you should be able to go straight in that situation too. But we don’t let people do that.

          • Ryan

            Not so. The probability of being struck while going straight through is far and away greater than while turning.

            But this is one of those murky ethical/value questions, is it not? How much do we value life in relation to any number of other things we might value? What we “let” people do is in relation to our values and what we see as the costs associated with newly created legal limitations.

            I sort of wish you would take up larger bits of my original post versus this “why should people get to turn on red” bit though. Your article tries to make an argument based on limited, biased data from 5 years ago that really isn’t germane to your argument, all while pushing the emotion of the “young girl cut down in the prime of her life” riff.

            I’m not opposed to being persuaded on issues of public policy, especially as it regards the general flourishing of the population. But for that to happen it sort of needs to be persuasive.

          • //But this is one of those murky ethical/value questions, is it not? How much do we value life in relation to any number of other things we might value?

            That question was answered in the ’70s when right on red was adopted to increase fuel efficiency in automobiles. The pedestrians are collateral damage to that priority.

            I’m sorry you didn’t find the post persuasive.

            Please drive carefully.

          • Ryan

            It appears I am not the only one. Several posts have shown current data going against your thesis, as well as information about the the specific death that you cite as being from the vehicle coming from the other side, turning left on a green. And none of the data proves that “pedestrians are collateral damage to that priority”. Your facts just aren’t there!

            I’m sorry that you cannot see that you tried to bend the narrative of this issue to your unqualified belief with no evidence to support it. Ideas do not have rights! They must be based in reality.

            I’m sorry I expect cogent arguments. Perhaps I expect to much from newsmakers.

          • // Your facts just aren’t there!

            I’m not following you. You’re saying RTOR wasn’t introduced as a fuel saving measure and people aren’t being killed by people turning on red lights and hitting pedestrians?

            Let’s recap what the Federal Highway Administration says:

            A permissible Right Turn on Red (RTOR) was introduced in the 1970s as a fuel-saving measure and has sometimes had detrimental effects on pedestrians. While the law requires motorists to come to a full stop and yield to cross-street traffic and pedestrians prior to turning right on red, many motorists do not fully comply with the regulations, especially at intersections with wide turning radii. Motorists are so intent on looking for traffic approaching on their left that they may not be alert to pedestrians approaching on their right. In addition, motorists usually pull up into the crosswalk to wait for a gap in traffic, blocking pedestrian crossing movements. In some instances, motorists simply do not come to a full stop. One concern that comes up when RTOR is prohibited is that this may lead to higher right-turn-on-green conflicts when there are concurrent signals.


            Curiously, it says more research is needed for determining when RTOR should be prohibited. One would think that a nearly 50-year-old law would have allowed time for such a thing.

          • Ryan

            Nope, I can take it on faith that that was why it was introduced. I just fail to see how how making turning on reds illegal will necessarily decrease pedestrian crashes. Pedestrians will still cross even if it says “Don’t Walk” and the driver has the right-of-way…still will be the drivers fault, more or less.

            And look above to the numbers that were posted from 2014, no deaths due to turning on reds, and only lists 22 injuries. And how about something that looks at such deaths before the change and after the change? You want to use numbers to prove your case, but you cherrypick those that suit your thesis.

            And the death that you lead your story with, which direction was the driver coming from? Was she making a right on red or was she making a left on a green from the other side of the street? That seems important, at least to me, if you are going to title an article “The case against right-turn-on-red” and your feature fatality was killed by someone turning left on green. I’m sorry, Mr. Collins, that is just sloppy reporting if that is truly the case.

            So no, the facts that you want to be the premises of your argument in the article are not there. Or at least they are not facts that lead to anything that necessitates your conclusion.

          • The number of drivers hit by turning vehicles is substantial. Some are RTOR’s. Some are left turns. I’m asking why cars should be allowed to turn right on a red light at an intersection marked by a traffic signal when the original reason for having RTOR no longer exists to any substantial degree? The factors that led to the creation of RTOR are no longer applicable. We don’t have an Arab oil embargo and fuel economy was addressed in subsequent auto design. That and the very real fact that drivers simply abrogate their responsibility in observing the elements of the law.

            I get that you want to turn right because you have some place to go and there’s probably nobody in the crosswalk but that’s the thing about accidents involving turning vehicles: EVERYBODY THINKS THERE’S NOBODY THERE.

            The case in Forest Lake is hardly the sum and substance of an argument against RTOR. That’s why streets.mn has been recommending it for several years.

            The case for eliminating RTOR (in favor of the default being NO RTOR at intersections UNLESS marked) is a simple one as stated. There isn’t a single compelling reason for it that outweighs the obvious degradation of safety and the loss of life. Not one.

            If drivers have to sit and focus for 30 seconds at an intersection, I guess that’s just too bad. Anything that can force drivers to spend time focusing on the incredible amount of data at an intersection is a good thing for everyone.

          • Ryan

            Yet, you produce a lead example in the article that is not an example at all. And you fail to produce any compelling data to support your argument.

            And what is substantial? As I stated in my original post, the 2011 data you cite is less than 2 thousandths of a percent.

            If you want to say that we should have a no turn on red policy as some, however small, amount of lives will be saved, then just say that.

            It’s weird. First it seems as if you didn’t even read my original post. And ever weirder, when confronted with the weaknesses in your argument, and that is being nice as it is clearly devoid of supporting facts and even an example that could be considered a falsehood in this context, you just push on.

            You make statements in a vacuum of factlessness. And then you double-down on it.

            Persuade with us with fact-based argument and insight based on those data. Please!

          • Well, look, people are being hit by turning cars. People aren’t focusing their attention and taking the time to assess the situation at intersections. Those are facts.

            But you’re looking for compelling data.

            Throughout this thread, there are people posting about the close calls they’ve had with drivers turning and not paying attention in similar situations to those described.

            They seem to be persuaded. They seem fine with the facts. They seem pretty OK with the data.

            One guy isn’t.

          • Ryan

            People are generally swayed by emotional arguments, often known as fallacies. Doesn’t mean for a second that will combat the issue you seem to stand for correcting. Wouldn’t you rather have your data support your argument?

            And it is telling how you fail to address that the girl killed was not killed by someone turning right on a red, though it is presented as though she was.

            Your inability to meet the critiques in my original post should give everyone reading these posts some pause.

            Good day!

        • Jason Voskuil

          No. Most cars need to obstruct the perpendicular crosswalk (with the walk sign) in order to see if it is ok to RTOR. Any guess how many stop before the crosswalk?

          • Rob

            No. You are obligated by law to stop BEHIND the crosswalk space first, and then if necessary to fully see the intersection in all directions, you slowly creep forward.

        • Rob

          This is exactly the wrong mentality. A defensive driver always ASSUMES there will be pedestrians or bike riders nearby, such that it is INCUMBENT on them to come to a complete stop behind the crosswalk space so that they can determine the presence or absence of pedestrians or bike riders before they use the light.

          • Correct. The purpose of a full stop is to allow the accumulation of data and the processing of that data by the driver.

            Failure to do so is simply a failure to drive responsibly.

          • Ryan

            What mentality are you questioning? I made no mention of complete stops, or the determination of the presence or absence of peds./bikers. I don’t disagree with you, but I don’t see how anything I have stated in any of my posts implies that I was.

          • Rob

            you said “more often than not there are no pedestrians.. ” Whether there are lots or very few still obligates you to stop completely behind the crosswalk space and verify that there aren’t any coming from any direction before proceeding.

          • Ryan

            Not sure what part of I don’t disagree with you that you are not getting. So please read my comments in context and show me anywhere I said that vehicles should not be concerned about pedestrian safely. I believe they should.

            Just not sure, and I definitely don’t think the piece proves it, that changing this one thing will do anything to improve pedestrian safety.

            Plus I abhor the improper use of statistics and data to move one’s agenda along.

  • joetron2030

    Minnesotans are so used to right-turn-on-red that I can’t see their elimination doing much good unless there is not only serious enforcement but serious penalties tied to the enforcement.

    I see plenty of people ignoring the occasional “no (right) turn on red” signs at intersections too. They must think the sign, much like signalling a turn or lane change, as merely a suggestion.

    • Jeff C.

      I noticed a new one on St. Clair at Snelling in St. Paul last week. It seemed to be larger than the other ones I saw. So maybe someone decided that the signs were too small to be seen and that’s why drivers weren’t obeying them?

  • Gail

    How about a large fine and then enforce it? It doesn’t take long to get in the habit of looking if you receive a ticket for a hundred dollars!!

    • My work commute currently involves going through two construction areas on freeways where the posted speed is reduced and prominent signs note a $300 fine if caught. Guess how many people besides me obey that posted speed limit?

  • Melissa Hansen

    When I came to a full stop for a right turn at a stoplight during my drivers license test (at the closed course in Eagan), the examiner told me that I should not come to a complete stop because I would get rear-ended by the car behind me. I still think of her all the time as I walk, bike and drive. I lean more towards your suggestion and I feel very vulnerable to cars turning right as a pedestrian. Just this morning, I was walking in the crosswalk and a car turning right steered further over into the oncoming traffic lane to get around me.

    • Wow, that’s frightening that the DPS has a person in its employ that teaches people not to follow the law.

    • Ben

      I wonder if this was an examiner just looking for something to critique as you were acing the course. Did you get a particularly high score? Still very strange that an examiner would condone that.

      • Rob

        Criticizing someone for following the law is odd, no matter the reason.

    • amiller92

      Ack! The one thing I specifically remember from my behind the wheel driver’s training was the instructor making use of his break to make sure I stopped before turning right on red.

      • Rob


    • Badboy35

      There is no support for this practice. It makes as much sense as running through a changing light to avoid being rear ended.

  • JB

    Argument about RTOR aside, this doesn’t seem to fit that case and is in fact a bigger question of the crossing design at this intersection. It appears from the incident report that the driver was SB turning left on a green light and the pedestrian had started crossing NB when she was hit. How you don’t see her I have no idea. But it boggles my mind why an intersection on a major road next to three schools would have a crossing design that only “allows” pedestrians to cross the highway on one leg. The child hit here was likely crossing the leg that was most convenient to her rather than cross THREE different roads to get from point a to b. To me it’s ridiculous that a crossing likely used by many students would be designed this way.

    • I almost hit a pedestrian at the intersection of Radio Drive and Central Park Place a few years ago when I was turning left and he/she/it was in the crosswalk. I had the green light, she had a walk light (again, this is just a HORRIBLE combination). But the person was right there behind the post on my windshield and I spotted the person in time. A week later, someone was SERIOUSLY injured in the exact scenario.

      Each day when I get out of work, when I get to the 9th Street and Robert Street intersection to turn right, I am amazed how much work I have to do to balance all of the factors coming into play. People crossing 9th, people waiting to cross Robert? Is there someone walking up 9th? Is there a car coming on the left?

      It’s hard work, actually and it takes concentration to process the entire picture of the intersection.

      Concentration and focus simply is not the natural state of drivers.

      • killershrew

        I saw a woman crossing West 7th St (by Xcel Center) the other day, similar situation to the left turn scenario you described above. She had the walk sign, and two lanes of traffic turning left off West 5th St (onto 7th) had green arrows. As the woman crossed, left turn traffic started barreling down on her. They had a green arrow and she was in their blind spots. Before proceeding with crossing the street, she stood partway in the first lane and waved her arms like a crazy woman to ensure they saw her and stopped. It was a good thing she did, because I’m pretty sure she would’ve been badly hurt otherwise.

    • Jeff

      It looks like it was a left turn and there’s no crosswalk there. So RTOR not to blame. But as I noted in a previous post, it’s a terrible intersection.

  • MaggieAnn

    I totally agree that we should stop right on red. As pedestrian and bicycle traffic increases, there needs to be added safety at intersections. A person who is going to make a right on red often stops after the stop line which can’t be anticipated by walkers and bicyclists.

  • Brenda F

    I think it is more dangerous when drivers have a green light and automatically turn right without looking for a pedestrian that is crossing with the walk signal. Drivers have to learn to be more observant and yield to pedestrians, especially when they have the right of way.

  • Postal Customer

    It’s ironic because a right-turn-on-red is treated as a yield sign. Yet MN drivers treat yield signs as stop signs and vice-versa. Green lights are mere suggestions around here.

    • My observation during walks along Seventh Avenue in St. Paul is that drivers completely blow off yield signs. They don’t even slow down unless I actively get their attention that I’m walking in the intersection they want to go through.

  • Traci Joseph

    Intersection of Robert and Kellogg in St Paul is a major contender for most dangerous. Several colleagues have been hit by cars at that crossing. Biggest problem is the left turn lane heading onto Robert. In the morning there is a lot of traffic and the light doesn’t stay green for long, so the cars really only stop turning when oncoming traffic start coming at them, and they never look for pedestrians. It becomes a problem when the turning vehicle in the right lane obscures the vehicles also turning in the left. People have gotten hit that way, attempting to cross on their legal green “walk” light. After years of working downtown, I know that the only way to stay safe as a pedestrian is to be highly alert at all times, and never cross without looking all ways, multiple times, while also offering up prayers to the deity of your choosing.

    • killershrew

      Amen to that. Put away the cell phones and look in all directions before stepping into the street.

  • Brian Simon

    I like the walk signal. Certainly, as a pedestrian, greens feel as dangerous as right on reds. The root problem though, is that drivers don’t treat cars as the deadly machines they are. The other day the car in front of me was nearly T-boned on a green because a crossing car wasn’t paying attention. While the smoke from his screeching tires cleared he appeared to be guiltily putting away his phone.

  • Mark

    I completely agree with Bob, but we need to phase out 4-way intersections and implement more roundabouts. And roundabout haters need to face facts: Roundabouts are
    safer for both pedestrians and motorists, and are far more
    efficient than 4-way intersections. They force a reduction in speed, and the possibility of blowing through a stop sign or a red is
    eliminated. Splitter islands allow pedestrians to only cross a single lane of traffic at a time with better visibility. Right on red risks are eliminated.

    I agreed MN drivers get confused by roundabouts, but at least they are safer, and they can learn. The same is true for merge lanes and right turns — but the consequences are much higher,

    • Brian Simon

      As a road user, roundabouts are great. As a sidewalk user, roundabouts are as scary as right on reds and greens. I live near the Minnehaha roundabout, which is utter chaos in higher volume situations.

      • Mark

        I’m not familiar with that one, but busy roundabouts definitely need to be designed with pedestrians in mind. They should leverage the splitter islands to give pedestrians a pause between lanes of traffic. But pedestrian tunnels or bridges should be the norm at busy intersections — not the exception — especially as cyclist and pedestrian traffic has been rising.

        • mattaudio

          Roundabout legs should have speed tables (raised crosswalks) as well as having the crosswalk use the splitter island as a refuge island as you suggest.

      • Kassie

        I just mentioned that one upstream. I hate driving that one because I don’t even know where to look to see the pedestrians and bicyclists.

      • 212944

        True, but that is poor design/planning.

        An intersection with a lot of ped/bike traffic or one that is expected to have a lot of ped/bike traffic is not the place for that type of roundabout.

        But we (the collective “we”) are too cheap or biased or lazy to do things correctly, whether it is properly planned/designed roads (especially MnDoT but also at the local level) and traffic enforcement.

      • npatnaude

        I live by the roundabouts on Louisiana Avenue. Typically, they keep the traffic moving without building up too many cars on either on/off ramps or on Louisiana. With the closure of Highway 7 at 100, traffic from 7 is routed down to Louisiana as a detour. What once were easy roundabouts to navigate are next to impossible with the heavy traffic (especially the morning/evening commutes). As someone who has had to cross them to catch public transportation, each trip is a risk because people blow through the yield signs and honk at you (even if you have the right of way).

  • grik dog

    I support right turn on red. What I don’t understand though is when two cars are making left turns and the cars behind those turning move right and drive across the intersection. It is the norm and I have always wondered if this legal. Does anyone know?

    • John

      It’s not legal to move onto the shoulder to go around someone who is turning left. You are supposed to wait.

      • Yet another scenario in which drivers haven’t got a clue. Just happened to me the other night on Bailey Road. Waited for a driver to turn left. Cars behind went racing into the breakdown line (it’s a solid line for a reason, people). Of course, I caught up with them when they had to stop at the roundabout.

        This is why I recommended a few days ago that drivers have the same regulations as people who fly planes. Every two years you have to have a one hour review to learn new laws and brush up on existing ones.

        That, of course, will never happen. They’re entitled to drive as they see fit. And there’s nothing to stop them and their often entitlement mentality.

  • Michael Zalar

    A couple of problems.
    First, according to other news reports the driver was making a LEFT turn (southbound to eastbound) at a divided highway. This is a more sensible explanation because it would have given the vehicle more time to accelerate to a dangerous speed, and had the victim been in the intersection, she would have been attempting to cross at a red light.
    Indeed any right turn on red/pedestrian accident would necessarily mean the pedestrian was also crossing against the same red light. I would think that turning right on a green light is far more dangerous for a pedestrian in the crosswalk. Right turn on red is likely to save lives, as they occur at lower speeds and when there should be no pedestrian in the crosswalk

  • mattaudio

    The equivalent of a plane crash of humans of the American variety are killed each day due to being in or being struck by a motor vehicle. This is the true massacre of our people, the true terror upon our country, and the largest public health crisis of our time.

    • Brad Benson

      Clearly we must ban motor vehicles. Isn’t it time we as a society do something about these needless deaths?

  • steinbeckian

    Another idea would be to actually enforce traffic laws. I never, never turn right on red without stopping completely and checking for cars and pedestrians. And cops. Red light violation tickets are expensive. I learned this a couple years ago.

  • Bill W

    You’ve described Woodbury perfectly, I’m an avid bicyclist and being anywhere in the vicinity of Radio and Tamarack scares me and trying to get north of I-94 is a challenge too!

  • Michael O’Laughlin

    This sounds more like a problem stemming from police not enforcing basic traffic signal laws and distracted driving laws. We live in a state where there is a permissive attitude towards disregarding driving rules that keep people safe. Let’s start by making sure people are following the rules before we punish law-abiding people for everyone else’s laziness and ignorance.

  • Kate Riggle

    I walk to and from work on a daily basis. I live downtown in Hibbing. I walk the mainstreet where there are traffic lights every other corner. We even have signs in the street reminding drivers to stop for people in the crosswalk. The drivers do not follow the lights or signs. They ignore you as they drive right past you, block their faces with their hands, give you the finger, speed up, or just don’t care. I cannot tell you how many times I have nearly hit( I have been “nudged” by a car as it took a left while I was in the crosswalk). I fear walking to work. I worry that today is the day someone will plow right into me. I have 2 kids and I worry about them crossing as well. I do worry that my kids will get hurt. Slowing down will help, remembering laws and following them will help even more, enforcing them will help the most.

  • HowardBrazee

    People also run over pedestrians turning right with green lights in their favor.

  • not that bad of a driver

    I nearly hit someone the other day. I was making a legal left hand turn, at an intersection that I haven’t seen many bikes or pedestrians at….I do try hard to look and notice these things, but as the light turned, I started to go and slammed on my breaks inches from this couple. They had been back from the corner a bit at the light post, right in the way of the corner post of my car, and I was a bit distracted with a truck approaching the red light that looked like he was going to T-bone my car. Nearly gave myself a heart attack and I’m sure got their hearts racing as well.

    Please let all the dang cars sit at red while ALL the walk signs are on, then none of us will have these “legal” close calls.

  • Midimagic

    That red-yellow signal indication meant “walk” in Massachusetts, but it NEVER meant that anywhere else. It does not even mean “walk” in the signal in the photo (that is a British signal)). In other states and countries (including Britain), it meant “get ready to go” (move your gearshift to first gear) and it often caused people to go before the intersection was clear. It is banned by federal law and has been since 1961 because it was so dangerous.

    Massachusetts is flouting the federal law and losing federal funds because it continues to use the prohibited red-yellow indication. Britain still has this indication because a much larger portion of the population has stick shifts. But it can’t mean “walk” because it is shown at the same time as the yellow on the other street.

    The problem is that pedestrians do not obey the pedestrian signals. The pedestrian signals allow walking during only the first part of the green light for a reason: Drivers waiting for gaps in traffic often can’t see pedestrians in the far crosswalk because they are hidden by the traffic. So by the time oncoming traffic clears out, the pedestrian should have a DON’T WALK indication.

    It has been my experience that pedestrians (and especially bicycles) break the law much more often per traffic unit than motorists do

    – Too many pedestrians believe that hokum about “the pedestrian always has the right-of-way”. The law requires the pedestrian to wait for traffic in some situations (e.g. when walking along the road in the traffic lane), and prohibits pedestrians in many places (e.g. midblock between two traffic signals). But pedestrians often step off the curb without even looking. Some of them run, increasing the danger of not being seen.

    – Too many bicycle riders pretend they are pedestrians because they have no motor. The law does not allow this – bicycles are treated as motor vehicles. The biggest cause of bicycle fatalities in my city is bicycle riders going the wrong way on a one-way street.

    Everyone should be obeying the laws we have.

    • That’s why I said in Massachusetts when I was growing up we had this signal.

      I haven’t seen the red/walk light used in Massachusetts in at least 50 years.

      • Jeff C.

        Do you mean you haven’t seen the red/yellow walk light used in at least 50 years? It was in use in the 70s certainly and I think in the 80s, too. Then I got too old to use it.

  • Badboy35

    This does not address the core issue, which is that drivers need to be trained/conditioned to look for pedestrians. They need to slow down and be constantly on the lookout for anyone poised to cross the street. If you don’t see someone, it’s because you are in too much of a rush and you are being careless. Slow down and look for pedestrians, yield as needed.

  • Jeff C.

    I saw someone who stopped for a pedestrian at a crosswalk get rear-ended this morning. It made me think of Bob.