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Is it Time to End Right on Red Laws to Prevent Pedestrian Accidents?

A decades-old law that was meant to manage fuel shortages is coming under the spotlight in states like Georgia,  as experts consider ways to reduce the number of pedestrian accidents around the country.

The  so-called “right- on-red” law allows motorists in   Georgia and  several   other states to make a right turn at an intersection even if the light is on red as long as the intersection is clear.  The  law provides American motorists with a unique privilege, and comes as a result of a law that was passed in the 1970s  as the country grappled with fuel shortages. That was when an oil embargo  pushed oil prices to record levels, necessitating  the passing of the Energy Policy and Conservation Act of 1975.  Some  other states  had passed similar right to turn laws a few decades earlier.

The  laws continued to remain in place even after the oil embargo ended and fuel prices returned to normal.  It is  a privilege that  American motorists now do not even think twice about, and it is only now in the face of skyrocketing pedestrian accident deaths that experts are asking if it is time to retire a law that is possibly  at least partly responsible for the increasing number of people being killed in  pedestrian accidents, especially at intersections.

In  Georgia,  the right of way laws allow motorists to  make a right turn at an intersection even when the traffic stop light is red, as long as you make sure that there are no hazards ahead.  You  may only make a right turn if you are certain that doing so  will not endanger others in the intersection. Unfortunately,  far too often, motorists fail to look out for pedestrians who may be using the crosswalk.  Motorists, in a  case like this, may be looking left to make sure that there is no traffic and not looking out for pedestrians.   The right turn on red law is not the cause of all pedestrian accident deaths, or even most of them, but the fact is that pedestrian accident deaths have  increased by a staggering 18% between 2019 and 2022.  In 2021, we lost close to 8,000  people in pedestrian accidents – the highest number on record in 40 years. Drastic measures are needed.

Repealing  the law will not be easy.  Motorists now are use to these laws and habits are hard to break.  There is also likely to be opposition to any move that would  increase fuel consumption and lengthen   travel times.

The Atlanta car accident attorneys at Katz Personal Injury lawyers are dedicated to the representation of persons who have suffered injuries in car accidents in the metro Atlanta region and across the state of Georgia.  If you or a loved one have suffered injuries in a car accident, talk to an attorney at our firm  and discuss your legal options for a claim for damages.  You  may  qualify for damages that include medical expenses, lost income, pain and suffering and other forms of compensation.  Talk  to an attorney at our firm and discuss your case.  Initial consultations are free.


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