Soon, you may not be able to turn right on red in parts of metro Atlanta

ATLANTA — Three Atlanta city councilmembers are proposing a ban on turning right on red lights in Downtown, Midtown and Castleberry Hill.

The ordinance, sponsored by Jason Dozier, Amir Farokhi and Byron Amos, said the downtown and midtown parts of Atlanta are “metropolitan regional hubs for commerce, culture, residential life and community activities,” and rely on safety and accessibility for pedestrians to keep those areas thriving.

Speaking with Channel 2′s Steve Gehlbach, Dozier said a driver’s “commute might extend by a minute or two, but at the end of the day it saves lives. I think it’s worth the trade off.”

To that end, ELMS #34473, the ordinance, says high volumes of pedestrian traffic are due to mixed business and residential areas, plus “numerous cultural attractions” in the city center. It’ll be before the Atlanta City Council’s Transporation Committee next Wednesday.

In order to ensure pedestrian safety remains paramount, “initiatives aimed at reducing potential hazards, such as accidents involving turns at red lights, are integral to maintaining a secure and inviting atmosphere in Downtown Atlanta, Midtown Atlanta, and Castleberry Hill.”

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Referencing traffic history, the ordinance recalls how “no turn on red was a standard traffic policy nationally until 1975 when the federal government demanded allowance of turns as a fuel conservation measure during the oil crisis, resulting in compliance of all states by 1980,.”

Still, the text of the proposal said the impact on fuel consumption ended up being negligible, but the impact on pedestrian cycling safety was significant, and said the policy change “triggered a sharp increase in crashes involving conflicts between pedestrians and cyclists and right-turning vehicles.”

Further, the ordinance said the Governors Highway Safety Association estimated that pedestrian deaths from being struck while walking was at its highest level in the past 40 years, and expected to increase.


The habit of “turning drivers often pause at red lights, blocking crosswalks as they move forward to get a better view before turning, denying the right-of-way to somebody walking or biking because a driver is blocking their path” and advice of the Federal Highway Administration needs new, proactive measures to protect pedestrians.

As proposed, council members want to keep the areas bounded by North Avenue to I-20 and Northside Drive to the I-75/I-85 Downtown Connector, and the area bounded by I-85, North Avenue, I-75/I-85 and Piedmont Avenue/14th Street/Peachtree Street to no longer allow a red light right turn, with limited exceptions.

Per the ordinance, the prohibition on red light right turns would be lifted in areas where specific signage indicating turns on red lights is present, as set by the Atlanta Department of Transportation. Emergency vehicles would also be exempt from these restrictions while actively responding to a call for service with sirens and lights activated.

Should the ordinance be approved by the city council, ATLDOT would be required to post appropriate signage within 180 days of its effective date. The Atlanta Police Department would also be required to enforce the ordinance through citations.

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