Maine Traffic Rule Update: Understanding the Right Turn on Red Rule in 2024

A red light. It’s a universal symbol for stopping. But for drivers in many parts of the United States, it can also mean an opportunity to make a right turn after coming to a complete stop, yielding the right of way to pedestrians and oncoming traffic. This is the concept of the right turn on red (RTOR) rule.

This blog post dives into the specifics of the RTOR rule in Maine as of 2024. We’ll explore the legality of the maneuver, exceptions to the rule, safety considerations, and tips for making a safe right turn on red in Maine. Whether you’re a seasoned driver in Portland or a recent transplant to Bangor, this information will ensure you’re navigating Maine intersections confidently and safely.

The Right Turn on Red Rule in Maine

  1. Legality

In the state of Maine, making a right turn on red is generally legal unless there’s a specific sign prohibiting it. This aligns with the traffic laws in most U.S. states. However, it’s crucial to understand that legality doesn’t equate to automatic permission. Drivers must adhere to specific guidelines before proceeding with a right turn on red.

  1. Following the Rules

Here’s a breakdown of the steps involved in a safe and legal right turn on red in Maine:

  1. Come to a complete stop at the red light. This means your vehicle is entirely stopped, not rolling forward even an inch.
  2. Yield the right of way to all pedestrians in the crosswalk, regardless of the direction they’re walking. This includes those crossing in front of you, behind you, and even diagonally across the intersection.
  3. Yield to oncoming traffic with a green light or those turning left in front of you. This ensures there’s a clear path before making your turn.
  4. Turn on your right turn signal to indicate your intention to turn.
  5. Proceed with caution after ensuring a safe gap in traffic exists. Don’t force yourself into a tight spot or create a dangerous situation.

Exceptions to the Right Turn on Red Rule

Even though RTOR is generally allowed in Maine, there are situations where it becomes illegal. Here are some key exceptions to be aware of:

  • Posted Signs: If you see a “No Turn on Red” sign at an intersection, it overrides the general rule. Heeding such signs is mandatory to avoid a traffic violation.
  • Double Red Lights: Some intersections might have two red lights stacked vertically. This typically indicates a longer stopping time or a dedicated left-turn lane. In such cases, right turns on red are prohibited.
  • School Zones: During designated school zone hours, even if there’s no specific signage, stopping completely and waiting for a green light is mandatory before making any turn.
  • Hazardous Conditions: If weather conditions like heavy rain, fog, or snow significantly reduce visibility, it’s best to err on the side of caution and wait for a green light before turning, even if there’s no specific signage prohibiting RTOR.

Safety Considerations for Right Turns on Red

While RTOR can improve traffic flow, safety remains paramount. Here are some additional safety tips to keep in mind when making a right turn on red in Maine:

  • Double Check for Pedestrians and Cyclists: Not all pedestrians are readily visible, especially during nighttime or in bad weather. Take extra time to scan crosswalks in all directions before proceeding. Be mindful of cyclists who might be using designated lanes or sharing the road with vehicles.
  • Avoid Distractions: Put down your phone and focus on the road. Distracted driving can lead to missed cues and delayed reactions, increasing the risk of accidents.
  • Anticipate Other Drivers’ Actions: Don’t assume other drivers will follow the rules. Be prepared for someone turning left illegally or misjudging the gap in traffic. Defensive driving is key.
  • Don’t Rush: Never feel pressured to make a right turn on red if you’re unsure about the safety of the maneuver. Wait for a green light if you have any doubts.

Right Turn on Red in Different Maine Cities

While the general RTOR rules apply throughout Maine, there might be slight variations in signage or enforcement practices between cities. Here’s a quick look at some key points for a few major Maine cities:

  • Portland: As a bustling city, Portland might have more heavily congested intersections. Be extra cautious when making right turns on red, especially during peak traffic hours. Pay close attention to pedestrian signals and crosswalks.
  • Bangor: Right turns on red in Bangor should be approached with the same focus on safety as anywhere else in Maine. However, due to potentially less congested intersections, visibility might be slightly better compared to Portland.
  • Lewiston: Lewiston’s historic downtown area might have some intersections with unique layouts. Be particularly mindful of signage and road markings when navigating these areas.
  • Augusta: As Maine’s capital city, Augusta might have a mix of busy and quieter intersections. Adjust your right-turn-on-red strategy accordingly, prioritizing safety in all situations.

Additional Tips and Resources

  • Brush Up on Defensive Driving Techniques: Taking a defensive driving course can equip you with valuable skills to navigate complex intersections and avoid potential hazards.
  • Stay Updated on Traffic Laws: Traffic laws can occasionally change. It’s recommended to visit the official website of the Maine Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV) for the latest information on right-turn-on-red regulations:
  • Report Unclear Signage: If you encounter unclear or malfunctioning traffic signals or signage at an intersection, report it to the appropriate local authorities. This helps ensure everyone’s safety on the road.


Understanding the right turn on red rule in Maine is essential for safe and efficient driving. By following the guidelines outlined above, you can navigate Maine intersections confidently. Remember, safety is paramount. Always prioritize yielding the right of way, checking for pedestrians and oncoming traffic, and avoiding distractions. By following these practices, you can contribute to a safer and smoother traffic flow for everyone on Maine’s roads.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

  • Is it illegal to turn right on red if there’s no oncoming traffic? No, as long as there are no posted signs prohibiting it and you yield the right of way to pedestrians, a right turn on red is legal even if there’s no oncoming traffic.
  • What should I do if the light turns yellow while I’m stopped at the intersection? If possible, come to a complete stop safely before the light turns red. If a safe stop isn’t possible, proceed cautiously through the intersection with caution.
  • Can I make a U-turn on red? No, U-turns are generally illegal at red lights throughout Maine.


The information provided in this blog post is intended for general informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Always refer to official resources from the Maine BMV for the most up-to-date and accurate traffic regulations.

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MBS Staff
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