Can You Make a Left Turn on Red?


Simply put, the answer is Yes.

I’ve been asked this question numerous times. And the answer is, “It depends.” But first, let’s clarify the question.

What most people intend to ask is if it is legal to make a left turn onto a one-way street with traffic heading to the left after having come to a complete stop at a red light. The answer, in most cases, is “Yes, this is a legal maneuver.”

According to a 2003 pamphlet issued by AAA, the following locations prohibit a left turn on red:

  1. Connecticut
  2. Missouri
  3. North Carolina
  4. Rhode Island
  5. Vermont
  6. New York City

Obviously, if there is a red left-turn arrow, a left turn is expressly prohibited.

Does it matter if the street I’m currently on is a one-way or two-way street?

Unfortunately, I do not know of which states make a distinction. To be 100% safe, I suggest only making a left turn on red when the street you’re on is also a one-way street.


5 Responses to “Can You Make a Left Turn on Red?”

  1. ken caldwell on November 17th, 2008 6:44 am

    if you cannot make a left turn on a red arrow, what is the purpose of some intersections having a sign that says “left turn on arrow only”?

    What is the difference if the thru trafic light is green and you make a left watching opossing traffic with a red arrow or an intersection with no arrow.

  2. laurie wagner on January 25th, 2009 1:57 pm

    Left turn on red? There are 6 places listed where you can not make this turn. One of them is NYC. City is highlighted, so does this mean just NYC or does it mean the rest of NY as well?

  3. Andrew Fields on March 11th, 2009 6:42 am

    Actually, a left red arrow does not necessarily mean no turn on red. In Oregon left turn on red is permitted when turning onto a one-way from a one-way or a two-way. It is also permitted on a red left arrow UNLESS a NO TURN ON RED sign is installed at the intersection.

  4. admin on August 17th, 2009 4:20 pm

    @Ken – A “left turn on arrow only” prevents unprotected turns on a green light. You must wait for a green arrow before proceeding. I didn’t fully understand your second question, so I’m sorry I couldn’t provide a response.

    @Laurie – My understanding is that the city itself prohibits the left turn, but that it is OK for the rest of the state.

  5. Scott Johnston on September 2nd, 2009 7:31 pm

    One exception is Delaware. When a red arrow is present, you can make a LEFT turn *IF* the red arrow is fleashing. I know weird when I learned about it myself but, it does help ease traffic.

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