Driving is practically a way of life here in New Jersey. And we all know the rules of the road, right?

Making a right turn at a red traffic signal, after coming to a complete stop, is perfectly legal across the entire United States. (Unless there is a sign prohibiting it, of course.)

Think about how much time you save by not having to wait for a green light to turn right onto a road or highway. (After coming to a complete stop, looking both ways, checking for pedestrians and other hazards and proceeding very carefully, of course.)

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But have you ever heard of a left turn on red? Maybe not, because such a thing is totally illegal in New Jersey.

Allow me to quote Section 39:4-115 of the New Jersey Code:

The driver of a vehicle... intending to turn to the right or left at an intersection where traffic is controlled by traffic control signals... shall proceed to make either turn with proper care to avoid accidents and, except as provided in b. below, only upon the "go" signal unless otherwise directed by a traffic or police officer, an official sign or special signal; or b. intending to turn right at an intersection where traffic is controlled by a traffic control signal shall...proceed to make the turn upon a "stop" or "caution" signal with proper care to avoid accidents after coming to a full stop.

In other words, Right on Red good, Left on Red bad. Common sense, right?

The web site Axle Addict (among others) did some research, and found a total of 42 states actually allow a left turn on a red light in a very specific circumstance: Turning from a one-way road to a one-way road.

Photo by Brendan Church on Unsplash
Photo by Brendan Church on Unsplash

I experienced this once while riding in an airport shuttle in Indianapolis, and it blew my mind.

Because it's one-way to one-way, there is no cross-traffic from either direction. So it makes reasonable sense that a driver can proceed, with caution as conditions allow.

Not in New Jersey though. Nor in Connecticut, Maine, Missouri, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Rhode Island, and South Dakota. New York City and Washington D.C. also forbid left turns on red in all circumstances.

Some states take it a step further and allow drivers to make a left turn on red from a two-way street to a one-way street. That includes Michigan, Idaho, Washington, Oregon, and Alaska. That seems like it could be a bit reckless — but as long as visibility of oncoming traffic is good, I suppose it is no more dangerous than a regular stop sign.

Yes, the usefulness of this maneuver is limited and very specific. (Just how many one-way/one-way intersections require a full traffic signal, anyway?) But the next time you're driving out of state and encounter such a situation, now you know what to do.

Reasons why some NJ drivers won't turn right on red

Unless there's a sign telling you otherwise, turning right on red in NJ is perfectly legal. But why are some hesitant to do so? Let's take a look at a few plausible reasons.

Gallery Credit: Mike Brant

Dan Zarrow is Chief Meteorologist for Townsquare Media New Jersey. Check out Dan's weather blog or follow him on Facebook for your latest weather forecast updates.

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Gallery Credit: Heather DeLuca

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