Ban All Right Turns On Red In Toronto

Sat, 09 May 2009, 14:02

When I walk to work each morning, I cross Front Street at Blue Jays Way. A few weeks ago, the lamp post at the north-west corner of the intersection was festooned with dozens of bouquets of flowers. I knew something tragic happened there. I later learned that a pedestrian was killed by a driver making a right turn on a red light.

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Right turns on red are legal in this province. Unfortunately, many motorists don't fully understand the traffic law, which requires motorists to come to a complete stop first, and proceed with the right turn only when safe to do so. Many simply roll through without any regard for others on the road.

As a pedestrian (for at least part of my daily commute to work), I know full well how vigilant pedestrians must be crossing any street in this city. Closer to work, I usually cross Spadina Avenue at a signalled crosswalk at Clarence Square Park. The traffic signals are very clear. But occasionally, a motorist will ignore the red lights completely and barrel right through without stopping.

I remember what motorists were like in this city 35 years ago. A pedestrian walking on a sidewalk would just have to glance across the street at a crosswalk and have all traffic come to a stop. But as the roads grew more and more crowded, the motorists have gotten less and less civil. I noticed a big jump in the aggressiveness of drivers the day after the Mike Harris Conservatives were elected in 1995. One of the promises that got him elected was to get rid of photo radar in catching speeders on Ontario highways. It seemed like the election of Harris served to empower motorists to do as they pleased on the roads. Things have only gotten worse since.

Currently, there's a proposal under debate in Toronto city council to eliminate right turns on red lights in certain intersections in the city. I think proponents of that idea have the right idea, but they should go further. They should ban right turns on red in the entire city. Motorists have demonstrated very clearly that they don't understand the current laws. So let's make things simpler. Let's make red lights mean "stop" in all situations, without any special cases. This is the rule in Montréal. This is even the rule in many other countries.

It's time for pedestrians to stand up for their rights, and take back the streets. Let's give a signal to motorists that we expect them to drive responsibly.


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