KSL TRAFFIC

SLC pedestrian-safety group pushing for no right turn on red light

Nov 7, 2023, 7:00 PM

FILE: Image of South Salt Lake City Council members Shane Siwik and Corey Thomas holding signs for ...

FILE: South Salt Lake City Council members Shane Siwik and Corey Thomas hold signs for a honk and wave as they try to draw attention to pedestrian safety. An advocacy group wants to see a Utah law that prohibits a right turn on a red light. (Silas Walker, Deseret News)

(Silas Walker, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — Eight pedestrians were hit and killed on Utah roads in October, 2023. So far this year, there have been 32 fatal auto-pedestrian crashes on Utah’s roads. Now, a pedestrian safety advocacy group is pushing to ban turning right on a red light. 

The group, Sweet Streets Salt Lake City, advocates for a safe design according to board member Ben Wood. 

 

“We believe that the way we build these roads is contributing to these death trends we’re seeing,” he said.

An example of safe design, he said, is the refuge island for pedestrians on 300 West between North Temple and South Temple. The crosswalk also features yellow lights flashing above.

 

The island gives “pedestrians hard concrete and trees to hide behind if they need to when a car is behaving badly,” Wood said.

He said our culture has become so accustomed to bad driving habits, we’ve named them. ‘The California Stop’ refers to a rolling stop at an intersection where the law calls for a full stop before turning right.

“People have become accustomed to treating a red light as a suggestion when they’re turning right,” Wood said. “I don’t blame drivers for that. We’ve told them that they’re okay to cross a pedestrian’s path.”

He added the rules are inconsistent and “change block to block.”

Another reason that some drivers forget the rules, is the infrequency of certain warnings or signs.  For example, Salt Lake’s Capitol Hill area uses a red arrow to remind drivers there’s no right turn on red. 

Inconsistent traffic laws

Wood said that traffic laws in Utah are designed to move cars faster. An example is “flex lanes” on 5400 South in Taylorsville, which move traffic in one direction to ease congestion during the morning rush hour and in the opposite direction for the evening rush.

 

What’s missing from the “move cars faster” approach is the safety of pedestrians who want to cross those streets, he said.

“If all we’re thinking about is how can we get as many people through a light as possible, it just puts people in harm’s way over and over again,” Wood said.

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SLC pedestrian-safety group pushing for no right turn on red light