Washington Traffic Rule 2024 Update: Understanding the Right Turn on Red Rule

In most US states, drivers are permitted to make a right turn at a red light after coming to a complete stop and yielding to pedestrians and traffic, unless otherwise indicated. This maneuver offers some benefits in traffic flow, but there’s continuous debate about whether it compromises safety. Washington State’s traffic laws are undergoing updates in 2024, with some adjustments specifically focused on the right turn on red rule. This article explains those changes and helps drivers understand safe practices.

Washington State’s Current Right Turn on Red Law

Washington State law is in alignment with most of the country when it comes to right turns on red. Drivers facing a steady red light must come to a complete stop and yield the right-of-way to pedestrians in crosswalks and any oncoming traffic. Only then can they proceed with the turn if it’s safe. Crucially, signs prohibiting a “right turn on red” will always supersede this general rule.

2024 Updates to the Right Turn on Red Rule

The key alterations to Washington State’s traffic rules impacting right turns on red in 2024 are:

  • Increased Signage: More intersections will likely display “No Turn on Red” signs. These are being placed particularly in urban areas with heavier pedestrian and cyclist traffic.
  • Protected Turn Lanes: Newly designed intersections might feature right-turn lanes with their own signal dedicated to turning traffic. This separation is intended to lessen conflicts between vehicles and pedestrians
  • Technology: Some traffic lights will deploy sensors to detect cyclists and pedestrians. With this system, a right turn would be prohibited even without a posted sign if cyclists were present.
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These changes come after studies by the Washington State Department of Transportation highlighting an increase in traffic incidents involving right turns on red.

Controversies and Safety Concerns

Right turn on red has both vocal supporters and opponents:

  • Arguments Against: Safety advocates caution that drivers focused on oncoming traffic may fail to fully notice pedestrians or cyclists. Accidents at intersections can be severe, particularly for those less protected than automobile occupants.
  • Arguments For: Supporters promote a right turn on red as improving traffic flow and reducing unnecessary idling. They note that when done cautiously, it poses minimal risk.

Washington State traffic data does reveal a correlation between an increase in right turn on red accidents and areas with higher density populations.

Best Practices for Safe Right Turns on Red

Regardless of personal views on the law, these steps increase safety whenever performing a right turn on red:

  • Complete Stop: Rolling stops significantly increase risk. Come to a full halt behind the marked line or crosswalk.
  • Yielding: Pedestrians always have the right of way, as do cyclists using designated lanes. Turn only when fully clear.
  • Awareness: Remain attentive even as you initiate the turn. A pedestrian who was hidden from view initially might step out.
  • Obey Signs: “No Turn on Red” signs, or red arrows specifically aimed at the right-turn lane, mean turning is forbidden.

Additional Traffic Law Updates for 2024

Other Washington traffic rule changes coming into effect in 2024 include:

  • Harsher penalties for distracted driving, particularly when resulting in an accident.
  • Revised regulations for electric bikes and scooters concerning speeds and permitted road use.
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Where to Find More Information


The 2024 updates to the right turn on red rule in Washington State prioritize safety in changing traffic circumstances. Drivers should adapt their behavior, noting more restrictions in certain areas. Awareness, yielding properly, and following all posted signage are essential to making the right turn on red maneuver as safe as possible.

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