You’ve heard the saying “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” How about this one? “If it looks too easy to be true, it probably is.”
The stoplight at N Western and the westbound Kilpatrick (Turnpike) exit ramp has two right turn lanes. On occasions, I have been in the left lane (when) drivers behind have honked, wanting me to turn right on red. Is this legal?
— Cindy Jones
This is one of those intersections (and Oklahoma City has others like this) where things are not quite as simple as they seem, Cindy. The quick answer is “yes,” but with an addendum. Read on.
First, let me say that your answer comes from (1) on-site observation, (2) a review of Oklahoma City’s municipal code, (3) an examination of Oklahoma State Statutes, (4) a discussion with not one but two veteran driver training specialists, (5) a talk with a former Oklahoma City police officer who worked traffic for many years and is considered one of the most knowledgeable around, (6) a current officer who works traffic and (7) correspondence with city officials, who discussed this situation with their experts.
Everyone seemed to be in total agreement. So, let’s take a mental drive through that location, or most any other with the two right-turn lanes you cite.
In Oklahoma, as in most all other state, you can turn right on red if you first stop, signal, then proceed when you can do so safely. That includes both lanes. Again: stop, signal, proceed when it’s safe.
That’s your “yes.” Here’s the addendum.
If there is a sign that says “no right turn on red from center lane,” or “no right turn on red” without stipulating a lane, you are prohibited from doing so. There’s more.
There is no city ordinance or state statute that says you MUST turn right on red. You have an option. But if you do make the turn, here’s the thing:
By law, when you make a turn, the law says you are to turn into the right lane. That IS in the city ordinance and state statutes. The right lane is the lane closest to the curb. So if you’re in the second turning lane, does that mean you HAVE TO turn into the right lane? That means crossing into another lane.
See where some drivers get confused?
This is where signaling, courtesy and caution are so important. In congested traffic, such as rush hour, not enough of these three points are used. Intersections are the most common locations for accidents, the numbers show.
A current traffic officer told me that as long as a driver is doing this maneuver safely and not endangering anyone, turning into the second lane is going to be allowed. The key is “safely.”
Those who want to avoid any of these situations might be best advised to look for an alternative route.
Traffic engineers and their crews continuously study intersections, looking at everything from vehicle flow, to speed, to the lay of the land and many other factors. If these spots are determined to be in need of change, they will be changed. Signal lights and signs are added for reasons.
By the way ...
A special thanks to Mort Beckman, Duane Brown, Ed Onley, Officer Anonymous (who didn’t want his name used) and Shannon Cox, the city traffic and engineering people who all got in on this one.
Enjoy your week and drive safely.