Right on Red, Screw the Peds

Photo © 2009 William Carpenter

Photo © 2009 William Carpenter

Oh those sneaky amendments. A few years ago bicyclists were blindsided by the insertion of a mandatory bike lane law into transportation bill HB 971.

This year pedestrians are quite literally being blindsided by an amendment to HB 7125 filed on the second-to-last day of the 2013 Florida Legislative Session. Here’s how it reads (new language in red, bold emphasis mine):

316.075(1)(c)1. A notice of violation and a traffic citation may not be issued for failure to stop at a red light if the driver is making a right-hand turn in a careful and prudent manner at an intersection where right-hand turns are permissible. A notice of violation and a traffic citation may not be issued under this section if the driver of the vehicle came to a complete stop after crossing the stop line and before turning right if permissible at a red light, but failed to stop before crossing over the stop line or other point at which a stop is required.

Yep. Truth is stranger than fiction. While FDOT, local governments and law enforcement agencies are working on initiatives to improve pedestrian safety — to rid our cities and state of the dubious distinction of being the pedestrian-killingest place on earth — the Floriduh Legislature is changing statute to allow right-turning motorists to drive into active crosswalks without stopping first. What the hell were they thinking?

It turns out this is related to red light cameras. Apparently right-turning motorists were getting tickets for running red lights. The staff analysis cites concern over a survey conducted by the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles in which 45 of 73 law enforcement agencies using the red light cameras were issuing citations for right-on-red violations. Only 16 of those agencies had a policy defining the statute language “careful and prudent manner.”

According to staff analysis, the purpose of the amendment was to “[provide] guidance to DHSMV and local governments as to what constitutes a ‘careful and prudent manner’ for the purpose of issuing a red light camera citation for a right-on-red violation.”

In other words, the statute language was too vague, so the legislature decided to define “careful and prudent” as stopping anywhere you want, even if you blow past the stop bar — which is there to PROTECT PEDESTRIANS who happen to have a walk signal.

As if people weren’t already  oblivious to the meaning of a stop bar. As if they didn’t already regard right-on-red as an entitlement. As if they didn’t already forget the part about how they’re supposed to stop first. SMH!

According to the Amendment history, which can be found here, this came from Senator Brandes (R) District 22.

17 replies
    • NE2
      NE2 says:

      This is part of Section 316.0083. I’m no lawyer, but I think the exception only applies to red-light camera tickets. In other words, you can still be cited by a human police officer for failing to stop where you’re supposed to. And if you hit a pedestrian, you’re still at fault for not stopping before turning (in addition to other errors you may have made).

      The “problem” is that stopping where you’re supposed to is not standard practice, so “too many” people were getting tickets from the cameras. The law authorizing cameras already prohibited ticketing a right turner who doesn’t stop but makes the turn in a “careful and prudent manner”, but many places were ignoring this, claiming it’s too vague: http://articles.orlandosentinel.com/2011-05-14/news/os-red-light-cameras-project-20110513_1_red-light-camera-tickets-motorists-appeal-yellow-lights

      • Keri
        Keri says:

        Right. Stopping at the stop bar is not standard practice, but it is actually the requirement. So, to clarify “careful and prudent” one might start with stating the default requirement: stop before the stop bar, or if there is no stop bar, before the crosswalk.

        I suspect the problem here is lawmakers forgot all about pedestrians and sought to define “careful and prudent” in terms of stopping before entering the cross street (concerned only for other motor traffic).

          • Keri
            Keri says:

            IMO, it’s careful and prudent if he stopped before the crosswalk first, then moved to that position (not blocking the crosswalks) where he could see cross traffic.

            Another problem I’ve seen is that if a driver doing that is still waiting when the light changes to green, he will often forget to look for pedestrians on the cross street that now have a walk signal.

            I watched a pedestrian get cut off and miss an entire walk cycle because of that at Forsyth and Aloma (dual right turn lanes). I reported it via metroplan to the county. There is now no-turn-on-red at that intersection.

  1. Robert Cooper
    Robert Cooper says:

    As traffic law becomes more complex, the minimum standard intelligence, and the minimum standard attentiveness that are needed for drivers — cyclists and motorists alike — to operate on the road and street, is going up. The law is outstripping the ability of drivers to function within it. Too many signs, too many rules, too many exceptions to the rules.

  2. Mighk Wilson
    Mighk Wilson says:

    As I read and re-read the amended statute (316.0083) and the existing ones, I come to the conclusion that a driver can go past the stop bar, but must still stop before the crosswalk, which is covered by another statute (316.075).
    If the stop bar is in the conventional location, such as shown above, the driver is in violation of 316.075. 316.0083 does not over-ride 316.075.
    If the stop bar is recessed some distance, the driver could be stopping between the stop bar and the crosswalk and not be in violation of either statute.
    The purpose of a recessed stop bar is to reduce the tendency for adjacent stopped vehicles to screen crossing pedestrians from the viewpoints of drivers. If a driver in the rightmost lane stops ahead of the stop bar, he’s only obscuring the view for drivers in the lanes to his left, and those drivers can only proceed on a green light (unless there are dual right turn lanes), when pedestrians aren’t allowed to enter the crosswalk from those drivers’ right. Pedestrians coming from the left would be clearly seen by all drivers even if the one in the rightmost lane is past the stop bar (except in the dual rights situation).
    There are almost always unintended consequences. I hope word doesn’t get out that you don’t have to stop at the stop bar when making a right on red because, as Keri notes, too many already ignore it and roll right into the crosswalk without looking.

      • Mighk Wilson
        Mighk Wilson says:

        The “careful and prudent” language in the original 316.0038 was indeed a problem, but it didn’t need “clarification;” it just needed removal. 316.075 already defines the “careful and prudent,” as well the “legally required” manner of turning right on red.

    • Dwight Kingsbury
      Dwight Kingsbury says:

      This is another example of the Legislature’s unfortunate tendency to pile on provisions in different sections (or subsections of the same section) that are concerned with the same operation. To be sure of which rule governs in a given situation in such cases, one has to search chapter 316 to find all possibly relevant passages, then compare them carefully to decide which rule (or exception) is most applicable.

      For example, section 316.2074, which addresses “All-terrain vehicles”, defines the term and appears to prohibit use of ATVs on public roads by private citizens. However section 316.2123, titled “Operation of an ATV on certain roadways”, refers to another but equivalent definition of “ATV” in chapter 317 and allows operation of an ATV “during the daytime on an unpaved roadway where the posted speed limit is less than 35 miles per hour”–except that a county may exempt itself from this exception. If such use is not prohibited by the county, use by a rider under the age of 16 would still be subject to the restriction in s. 316.2074 which prohibits their use, unless the rider wears helmet and “eye protection” that meet USDOT standards.

      To determine whether a given county had exempted itself from the exception in s. 316.2123, one would need to consult the county’s code of ordinances.

      Few road users have the time or inclination to research the “Uniform” Traffic Control Law so carefully, and instances of inconsistent enforcement by officers suggest they often do not either. When traffic regulations are complex or overlap, common interpretations tend to default to simplified informal “rules” based on the the most obvious or readily found points, or that road users consider consistent with “common sense”.

      In the case of sections 316.0083(1)(a) and 316.075(1)(c), I would agree with Mighk to the extent that a case could be made that the former provision does not over-ride the latter, but the text in 316.0083(1)(a) is sufficiently ambiguous on this score I wouldn’t count on that interpretation to prevail; it might take a court case to clarify this.

      316.0083(1)(a) does not even use correct and consistent grammar. The older text uses present progressive tense, prohibiting issuance of a citation to a driver who “is making a right-hand turn in a careful and prudent manner”, which, taken literally, would seem to prohibit such issuance only if the driver were in process of making a RT on red at the very moment the “traffic infraction enforcement officer” was considering whether to issue a citation.

      The new text inserted below the older sentence uses the past tense, referring to a driver who “came to a complete stop after crossing the stop line and before turning right…”

      • Keri
        Keri says:

        I was thinking about this during my swim. I’m not so sure that this provision doesn’t override 316.075. The text is not just about the stop bar:

        “but failed to stop before crossing over the stop line or other point at which a stop is required.”

        At what other point besides the crosswalk would a stop be required?

        • Dwight Kingsbury
          Dwight Kingsbury says:

          Per s. 316.075(1)(c)1, if there is no crosswalk, the driver must stop before entering the intersection. That is the only point beyond a crosswalk where this section requires a driver who intends to turn right to stop (under the condition described).

          The new text in s. 316.0083 seems to say, in effect, that even if the driver failed to stop at any “required point”, they may not be issued a notice or citation as long as they stopped somewhere “after crossing the stop line” (which isn’t necessarily present, although I think FDOT makes it a standard to install stop lines at signalized intersections on state roads) and “before turning right”.

          Thus, the last possible point to stop to be sure of not getting a citation would be the point where the driver begins “turning right”, wherever that is. In practice, most drivers, when preparing to turn right, begin moving toward the right 20, 30, 40 ft in advance of the near edge of the crossing roadway; such an approach is actually required by s. 316.151(1)(a). Just where the right turn actually begins would be anyone’s guess. Nothing in s. 316.0083 requires the driver to make his no-citation stop in a way that does not block a crosswalk.

  3. Robert Cooper
    Robert Cooper says:

    Whew! I totally love this stuff:

    the Legislature’s unfortunate tendency to pile on provisions; on certain roadways; another but equivalent definition; except that a county may exempt itself from this exception; “eye protection” [in quotation marks]; the county’s code of ordinances [implies that they differ from other counties in the same state]; inconsistent enforcement; when traffic regulations are complex; common interpretations; informal “rules”; the most obvious or readily found; “common sense” [in quotation marks]; ambiguous; correct and consistent grammar [i.e., incorrect and inconsistent]…

    A few years ago, USA Today published an article about a study conducted at the direction of the US Secretary of Education that concluded that 50% of four-year college graduates could not adequately summarize the points made in a newspaper editorial.

    So, parsing the law, which the authors of the law also apparently struggled with when writing it, seems beyond most drivers of vehicles in the US.

  4. Carlos Vazquez
    Carlos Vazquez says:

    You all lost me at 316.07….

    A normal citizen is not going to be aware of any of these laws or changes to laws. I happened to see it in my Track Shack racing pack today. I was personally confused by the stopping at a stop sign verbiage. I thought maybe it was a typo, it seemed so alien and illogical to me. I’m glad you all could confirm I wasn’t going crazy….yet….

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