In Push For Pedestrian Safety, Some Call For Ban On Common Practice

In a post earlier this week, we wrote about some of the latest statistics available on pedestrian deaths nationwide. Although the annual rate of such fatalities has dropped considerably over the past few decades, the problem is still pervasive.

To best address pedestrian safety, America would likely need to change typical city infrastructure and the cultural mindset that the "car is king." These are systemic changes that could take decades. In the meantime, some argue, we need to adopt traffic safety laws that reprioritize pedestrian safety over driver convenience. One suggestion: banning the practice of right turns at red lights.

Have you ever crossed the street in a crosswalk, only to have your path blocked by a driver waiting to turn right? Have you ever been nearly struck by a driver who was not paying attention to the surroundings before making their turn? Many pedestrians have had these experiences, especially in larger cities.

The right turn on red (RTOR) is such a common practice that many of us don't even think about it, and that may be part of the problem. Drivers are often pulling up to red lights and looking for traffic clearance that will allow them to turn. But most of the time, they are not looking for pedestrians.

According to one recent essay advocating for an RTOR ban, it is difficult to find statistics on how common these types of accidents are. Information of this nature is rarely collected after accidents occur. Therefore, a numbers argument would be fairly unconvincing.

But most people don't realize that the original rationale for RTOR is no longer convincing, either. The practice came into widespread use in the early 1970s, when Americans needed to conserve fuel during the national gas shortage. Modern cars are significantly more fuel-efficient than their 1970s predecessors. Therefore, it stands to reason that RTOR is now primarily a matter of driver convenience. Should such convenience take priority over pedestrian safety?

Obviously, this could be a contentious issue. Some major cities have banned RTOR at certain intersections, but that is a far cry from a citywide, statewide or nationwide ban.

Is RTOR a practice that should be banned here in Kentucky? What do readers think?

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