I’m old enough to remember when drivers did not have the freedom to pull up to a traffic light which happened to be red and then make a right turn after coming to a complete stop.
Generally known as “Right on Red”, this rule of the road was legalized in all 50 U.S. states way back in 1980.
I’m curious. Is there any state in which drivers still routinely come to a complete stop before exercising their prerogative to turn right on red? I didn’t think so.
It appears that most drivers currently interpret “Right on Red” to mean that it’s totally acceptable for them to cruise, drift, meander, careen, or roll through red traffic lights as long as they meet the minimum requirement of executing a right turn in the process.
About now, someone is probably thinking, “What’s the big deal?” Admittedly, this may seem like a very minor bending of the “Right on Red” statue. Except for the fact that many drivers, at least where I live, are now also applying the assumed freedom to cruise, drift, meander, careen, or roll to the act of making right turns at Stop signs.
From there, it’s a very short step to assuming that if one can make right turns when the traffic light is red, why isn’t it also permissible to cruise, drift, meander, careen, or roll straight through red traffic lights as well? Assuming of course, there are no other cars attempting to make it through the same intersection at the same time under the auspices of a green light.
Based on my own casual observations while driving locally, it appears that most drivers have long ago deemed the yellow caution traffic lights to be a nothing more than a nuisance and the need to pay attention to them to be completely optional. Gradually, that same mindset is being applied to red lights.
Just the other day, I observed three cars driving back-to-back through the red light at a very busy intersection near my home. To be clear, they were not attempting to sneak through the yellow light only to be a bit late in doing so. No, all three cars drove straight through the traffic light clearly after it had already changed from yellow to red.
Seeing one car zip through a red light has unfortunately become commonplace, but to witness three at the same time left me utterly dumbfounded. It’s one thing to care so little for your own safety and well-being, but to rashly jeopardize that of other people is totally unacceptable.
I’ll complete the well known axiom that I used in the title of this post, “Give ’em an inch, and they’ll take a mile.” Or maybe it’s two.
Human nature is alive and well and, often to our detriment, being generously applied in the interpretation of the rules of the road.
Be safe out there and remember to drive defensively!