Red light turning is measured by safety

Published 7:15 pm Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Q: Why does Farmville have so many “no right turn on red” intersections?

Farmville’s abundance of “no right turn on red light” signs at intersections aims to protect motorists, according to Town Manager Gerald Spates.

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Spates said the decision to not allow right turns at a red light depends on the individual circumstances of the intersection.

Not every intersection in the town prohibits right

turns on red. For example, Spates said the intersection at Milnwood Road and South Main Street allows right turns.

According to the Code of Virginia, “Notwithstanding the provisions of section 46.2-833, except where a traffic control device is placed prohibiting turns on steady red, vehicular traffic facing a steady red circular signal, after coming to a full stop, may cautiously enter the intersection and make a right turn.”

Because of the volume of traffic in Farmville, Spates said the no right turn on red signs have been posted for safety reasons. 

“You don’t want people making a right turn thinking they have the right of way,” Spates said.

He also pointed out there are areas in town that only allow right turns on red during specific times of the day.

“Each intersection is unique considering traffic volume, visibility and location,” said Police Chief Curtis Davis of the intersections that don’t allow turning right on red. “The determination of posting no right on red would be made based on the consideration of all of those factors. I am unaware of any statistical data that indicates in general that one type of intersection is safer or more dangerous than another based on the right turn on red.”

Davis said that in his experience he has “no pattern that would indicate that … In most cases, the safety of an intersection begins and ends with driver attention and caution. However, on occasion a specific intersection can prove to have more accidents than another and causation must be investigated.

Davis said that the department doesn’t see many drivers breaking the law at the specific intersections, but it does happen on occasion. This would be considered a traffic violation that if found guilty, would have a set monetary penalty, court costs and possible points against a person’s insurance.”

The intersection at Griffin Boulevard and South Main Street in Farmville specifically only allows motorists to turn right on red certain hours — namely when traffic is at its lowest point.

According to the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles, turning right on red illegally can cause three demerit points to remain on a driver’s record for three years.

According to the Virginia Center for Transportation Innovation and Research, the state implemented the sign permissive or “eastern” rule permitting right turns on red traffic signals where designated by sign in 1972.

A town transportation plan, adopted in August 2008, recommended that turning right on red lights at particular intersections be prohibited based on accident history and safety.