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


One of the states in the US where drivers are permitted to turn right on a red light under specific circumstances is California. Nonetheless, there are geographical differences, safety issues, and continuous discussions surrounding this practice. This post will outline the dangers and sanctions associated with turning right on red in California, along with the laws’ specifics. We’ll also talk about a few particular instances from big cities and potential future adjustments to this traffic law.

The Rules and Regulations of Turning Right on Red in California

Drivers encountering a constant red signal alone are required by California Legislature Section 21453 to stop at a designated limit line or before to stepping onto the crosswalk on the near side of the crossing. Drivers must stop before entering the intersection if there isn’t a crossing.

Except as stipulated in subsection (b), drivers shall stay halted until a signal to move forward is given. Drivers may turn right on a red light after coming to a complete stop at the intersection and yielding to oncoming traffic and pedestrians if there is no signage preventing turns.

Unless a sign specifically states otherwise, this rule also applies when turning left from a one-way street onto another one-way street. Drivers should be mindful, though, that certain crossroads can have extra rules, including no turning on red arrows, no turning on red while kids are around, or no turning on red during specific hours. When turning on a red light, drivers must always abide by the traffic signs and signals and drive carefully.

The Risks and Penalties of Violating the Right Turn on Red Rule in California

Although it may seem like a practical approach to avoid traffic jams and save time, turning right on red can have hazards and consequences. When a driver turns right on a red light without stopping or yielding, they run the risk of injuring or killing other people as well as themselves. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that in 2019, 846 people died and an estimated 139,000 people were injured in red-light running crashes.

In addition, drivers in California who break the right turn on red law risk penalties, license points, and increased insurance costs. In California, there is a $490 punishment for running a red light in addition to other costs and taxes. The infraction also results in the addition of one point to the driver’s license, which, if accrued, may result in suspension or revocation. Moreover, the infraction may result in a 22% average increase in the driver’s insurance premium.

At some crossings, authorities may use red light cameras and other tools to guarantee compliance and enforcement. Red light cameras are gadgets that record or take pictures of cars running red lights and send the registered owners of the cars tickets.

Drivers may, however, challenge the citations if they think the charges are incorrect or unwarranted. In addition, drivers can avoid receiving tickets by abiding by traffic regulations and driving with caution and courtesy.

Specific Cases in Major Cities

Although California generally has a uniform policy about turning right on red, there may be localized exceptions or special circumstances that motorists should be aware of. In large cities, the right turn on red regulation may vary as seen by the following examples:

In general, right turns on red are allowed in San Francisco and Los Angeles; however, motorists should be aware of certain crossroads where this is not the case. For example, in San Francisco, right turns on red are prohibited at more than 200 crossings, most of which are located in Chinatown and downtown. Certain junctions in Los Angeles, such as those with red right turn arrows or signs saying No Right Turn on Red or Right Turn Signal, prohibit right turns on red.

Berkeley and San Jose: Similar to Los Angeles and San Francisco, these cities permit right turns on red lights unless signage indicates otherwise. Berkeley and San Jose, however, have also put in place a few test projects to see how prohibiting right turns on red at specific intersections would work.

For instance, as part of Berkeley’s Vision Zero campaign to lower traffic fatalities and injuries, the city put No Turn on Red signs at four junctions close to senior centers and schools in 2021. In an effort to increase safety and mobility, San Jose also tested out banning right turns on red at two intersections in 2020 as part of its Vision Zero Quick Build initiative.

The cities of New York City and Washington, D.C. are brought up to offer a more comprehensive view of the variations that can occur when a right turn on red rules. Right turns on red are normally forbidden in New York City unless an appropriate sign is present, although they are generally permitted in Washington, D.C. with comparable exclusions. These cities have distinct rules in place for various reasons, including environmental effect, pedestrian safety, traffic volume, and population density.

Future Changes and Recommendations

Views on conventional traffic laws, such the right-of-way on red, are likewise undergoing change in tandem with changes in urban density and traffic patterns. Cities in California are now evaluating these regulations in an effort to strike a balance between traffic flow efficiency and safety. The ongoing debates in San Francisco and other places highlight how dynamic traffic rules and urban planning are, shaped as they are by changing technological breakthroughs and shifting societal norms.

It’s critical for drivers to remain informed on the most recent modifications to California’s right-turn on red law. Additionally, drivers ought to abide by the guidelines and best practices listed below for safely and legally turning on red, including:

  • Always come to a complete stop before the intersection or crosswalk, and check for signs that prohibit turns.
  • Yield to all oncoming traffic and pedestrians, and wait for a clear and safe gap before proceeding.
  • Be alert and cautious, and avoid distractions such as cell phones, music, or passengers.
  • Respect the rights and preferences of other road users, and avoid aggressive or impatient behavior.

Drivers in California can maximize the benefits of the right-turn on red regulation while lowering the dangers and fines related to it by adhering to these suggestions.


In California, it’s customary and practical for drivers to turn right on red, but there are guidelines that need to be adhered to. In addition to potential penalties, license points, and increased insurance costs, drivers who break California’s right-turn-on-red law run the danger of causing collisions, serious injuries, or even fatalities. Additionally, drivers need to be aware of the regional differences and unique circumstances that could impact the right-turn on red law in various cities.

Moreover, as traffic regulations and urban planning are always changing, drivers should keep up with any recommendations and prospective changes that may affect California’s right-turn on red rule. Drivers in California can reap the benefits of this practice and maintain efficiency and safety on the road by being aware of and observing the right turn on red law.

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