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Posted in Car Accidents on September 14, 2017   |  by Gary Burger

Can I make a left turn at a red traffic signal?

Even from a one-way street to another one-way street?

When I leave my parking garage to go home every evening, I stop at a traffic light right outside my building. It is on a one-way street and it turns onto another one-way street going left. Can I turn left if the traffic is clear even though the light is red? It depends. You need more information to answer this question. Specifically, you need to know what state I am in.

In Missouri, where I work, I cannot make that left turn on red even if it is clear and safe to do so. This is because all left turns on red signals are illegal in Missouri. According to Missouri Statute 304.281(3)(b) RSMo.:

The driver of a vehicle which is stopped as close as practicable at the entrance to the crosswalk on the near side of the intersection or, if none, then at the entrance to the intersection in obedience to a red signal, may cautiously enter the intersection to make a right turn but shall yield the right-of-way to pedestrians and other traffic proceeding…

Notice that the statute mentions that you may make a right turn on a red signal, but does not permit a left turn on a red signal. Missouri is one of only six states that do not permit this. The others are South Dakota, Connecticut, Maine, Missouri, New Hampshire, North Carolina. Some cities also prohibit this move including the District of Columbia and New Your City.

If I asked you the question above about the intersection and I was at our Belleville, Illinois office, the answer would be different. I would be allowed to make a left turn on a red signal in Illinois under certain circumstances:

Except when a sign is in place prohibiting a turn

and local authorities by ordinance or State authorities by rule or regulation prohibit any such turn, vehicular traffic facing any steady red signal may cautiously enter the intersection to turn right, or to turn left from a one-way street into a one-way street, after stopping as required by paragraph 1 or paragraph 2 of this subsection. After stopping, the driver shall yield the right of way to any vehicle in the intersection or approaching on another roadway so closely as to constitute an immediate hazard during the time such driver is moving across or within the intersection or junction or roadways. Such driver shall yield the right of way to pedestrians within the intersection or an adjacent crosswalk.

625 ILCS 5/11-306(a)(3).

So, Illinois, unlike Missouri, allows left turns on red from a one-way street to another one-way street. But, be very cautious if you do make a left turn on red on Illinois, because the statute says you must “yield the right of way” to approaching vehicles and pedestrians in the intersection or crosswalks.

Know the laws of the State where you are driving. It can save you a ticket, but more importantly, it can save lives.