City Council votes to uphold legality of right turns on red

By Beth Gilomen

Champaign motorists will still be able to make right turns at red lights unless otherwise posted.

In a poll vote, the Champaign City Council decided unanimously to maintain the status quo in all areas of Champaign at their meeting on Tuesday evening.

City staff asked the council for a recommendation in setting traffic policies concerning right turns at red lights. Currently, such decisions are made for each intersection individually if problems arise. The council could enforce a blanket policy, making all right turns at red lights illegal, or direct staff to set a formula for deciding which intersections require higher safety precautions.

At-large Councilman Tom Bruno cited a study performed by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration. The study, he said, found that prohibiting right turns on red has no significant affect on safety.

“It’s already illegal to turn right when there’s a pedestrian in the cross walk,” Bruno said. “We’re going to punish everybody, not just those who didn’t pay attention to the law in the first place.”

Councilwoman Deborah Feinen, at-large, said she believed that decisions about where such turns should be illegal should remain a judgement call. If there were a blanket policy against right turns on red, she said it would be confusing to visitors, since there are no Illinois laws prohibiting such turns.

City staff had proposed traffic of 50 pedestrians per hour as a rule of thumb for designating the intersection no right turn on red, but Bruno disagreed with the reasoning.

“A 50-person threshold is remarkably low in my mind,” Bruno said.

He said he felt that such a formula would be inaccurate when considering the fact that pedestrian traffic occurs more heavily at certain times of the day and in waves, especially in Campustown.

Making such a change would have had little effect, unless Champaign police had the staff to be sure that the rule was being followed, said Councilman Michael LaDue, District 2.

“If we made a change that we can’t enforce, I doubt that we would have done anything at all,” LaDue said. “It would make you feel better, but that’s about it.”