Can You Turn Against a Red Arrow?

What should you do when you see a red arrow pointing to the right?

  • A. Stop and proceed only when the way is clear.
  • B. Stop and wait for a green light.
  • C. Proceed slowly and carefully if the way is clear.

You may be surprised to learn that the answer differs depending on where you drive in the United States.

Solid Red Light

The standard rule in the United States is that you must come to a full stop when you reach a traffic signal with a solid red light. You must stop at the marked limit line, or before moving into the crosswalk or intersection. After stopping, you may turn right against the solid red light if the way is clear and no sign prohibits the turn. The same usually applies when turning left from a one-way street onto another one-way street.

California has the same rule.

The California Vehicle Code (V.C. 21453) states:

(a) A driver facing a steady circular red signal alone shall stop at a marked limit line, but if none, before entering the crosswalk on the near side of the intersection or, if none, then before entering the intersection, and shall remain stopped until an indication to proceed is shown, except as provided in subdivision (b).

(b) Except when a sign is in place prohibiting a turn, a driver, after stopping as required by subdivision (a), facing a steady circular red signal, may turn right, or turn left from a one-way street onto a one-way street. A driver making that turn shall yield the right-of-way to pedestrians lawfully within an adjacent crosswalk and to any vehicle that has approached or is approaching so closely as to constitute an immediate hazard to the driver, and shall continue to yield the right-of-way to that vehicle until the driver can proceed with reasonable safety.

Red Arrow

Many states don’t have different rules for the red arrow and the solid red light. When turns are allowed with the solid red light, they are also allowed when the red arrow appears.

Other states prohibit all turns against a red arrow. In these states, you must stop at a marked limit line or before entering the crosswalk. If there isn’t a stop line or crosswalk, you must stop before entering the intersection.

You must then remain stopped until the light turns green or a flashing yellow arrow is displayed.

California is one state that prohibits all turns against the red arrow. The California Vehicle Code (V.C. 21453):

(c) A driver facing a steady red arrow signal shall not enter the intersection to make the movement indicated by the arrow and, unless entering the intersection to make a movement permitted by another signal, shall stop at a clearly marked limit line, but if none, before entering the crosswalk on the near side of the intersection, or if none, then before entering the intersection, and shall remain stopped until an indication permitting movement is shown.

Red Arrow with a Green Light

You see a traffic signal with a green signal and a red arrow simultaneously. It means you may proceed in the direction permitted by the green signal. You may go straight ahead or turn in a direction not prohibited by the red arrow.

In California, you cannot turn in the direction of the red arrow.

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5 thoughts on “Can You Turn Against a Red Arrow?”

  1. Hello,

    My mate and I got a Red light traffic ticket against the vehicle in Queens, NY. We were at a corner with a steady red light and turn on left green turning arrow. My mate was in the turn left turn/go straight lane. As he entered the box of a five lane intersection to make his left turn, the green arrow disappear and left the red light (go recall there being a yellow warning light). He ended up abandoning the turn because he hadn’t moved out far enough to make a safe left turn and didn’t want to block on coming traffic, and wasn’t able to reverse. He received a ticket in the mail stating he ran the red light. The photo shows his car moving crossing the line less than point three seconds before the green arrow disappear, leaving only the red round light. When the vehicle crossed the line the green arrow light was still visible to us. My question, is it possible that our vehicle got that ticket accidentally because the vehicle in front of us entered the box and triggered the red light camera? The vehicle in front of us and in the photo was also in turn left/go straight lane but went straight on the red light instead of making the left turning.

    Reply

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