Understanding the Iowa Right Turn on Red Rule in 2024

Traffic lights are a crucial element in maintaining order and safety on our roads. They guide drivers through intersections, preventing collisions and keeping traffic flowing smoothly. One common traffic light rule is the right turn on red (RTOR). This rule allows drivers to turn right at a red light after coming to a complete stop, yielding to oncoming traffic and pedestrians.

This blog post delves into the specifics of the Iowa Right Turn on Red (RTOR) rule in 2024. We’ll explore the legality of the maneuver, exceptions, safety precautions, and answer frequently asked questions. Whether you’re a seasoned driver in Des Moines or a new resident navigating the streets of Cedar Rapids, understanding the RTOR rule will ensure you navigate Iowa intersections safely and efficiently.

What is the Iowa Right Turn on Red Rule?

The Iowa RTOR rule permits drivers to make a right turn at a red light after coming to a complete stop and ensuring it’s safe to do so. Here’s a breakdown of the key points:

  • Complete Stop: Drivers must come to a complete stop behind the marked stop line before proceeding with the turn. A rolling stop is not permitted.
  • Yielding the Right of Way: Before making the turn, drivers must yield the right of way to all oncoming traffic, including vehicles traveling straight, turning left, or pedestrians crossing the street with the green light.
  • No Posted Prohibition: The intersection must not have a specific sign prohibiting right turns on red. These signs are typically circular with red lettering stating “NO TURN ON RED.”

Legality of Right Turns on Red in Iowa

Right turns on red are legal in Iowa as per the Iowa Code section 321.319. However, this permission comes with the crucial caveat of ensuring safety before proceeding. Drivers must prioritize safety over convenience and only make the turn when the following conditions are met:

  • Oncoming traffic has a clear red light and is not turning left.
  • There are no pedestrians in the crosswalk you intend to turn into.
  • Turning right won’t cause a collision with other vehicles waiting to turn left or proceed straight from the opposite direction.

Exceptions to the Iowa Right Turn on Red Rule

There are situations where right turns on red are not permitted in Iowa. Here are some key exceptions:

  • Posted Prohibition Signs: As mentioned earlier, intersections with “NO TURN ON RED” signs explicitly prohibit the maneuver.
  • School Zones: During school zone hours, when flashing yellow lights are present, drivers must come to a complete stop and wait for a green light before making any turn.
  • Double Red Lights: Some intersections have a double red light configuration. In these cases, right turns on red are strictly prohibited regardless of other traffic conditions.
  • Limited Visibility: If weather conditions like fog or heavy rain restrict visibility, it’s safer to wait for a green light even if there’s no apparent oncoming traffic.

Safety Precautions for Right Turns on Red in Iowa

While the Iowa RTOR rule can expedite traffic flow, safety remains paramount. Here are some safety precautions to follow when making a right turn on red:

  • Come to a Complete Stop: This allows you to assess the situation and ensure it’s safe to proceed.
  • Double Check Oncoming Traffic: Look in both directions for oncoming vehicles, including those turning left and those that may have run a red light.
  • Yield to Pedestrians: Pedestrians with the right of way must be allowed to cross the street completely before you proceed.
  • Use Your Turn Signal: Signal your intention to turn well in advance to alert other drivers of your maneuver.
  • Proceed with Caution: Don’t accelerate abruptly after making the turn. Be prepared to stop if necessary to avoid a collision.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) on Iowa Right Turn on Red Rule

  • Can I turn left on red in Iowa? No, left turns on red are not permitted in Iowa.
  • What if I’m unsure about the legality of a right turn on red? When in doubt, always err on the side of caution and wait for a green light.
  • What happens if I violate the Iowa RTOR rule? Violating the RTOR rule can result in a traffic citation and a fine.


Understanding the Iowa Right Turn on Red rule empowers you to navigate intersections safely and efficiently. By following the guidelines, prioritizing safety, and exercising caution, you can contribute to a smooth flow of traffic and minimize the risk of accidents. Remember, the RTOR is a privilege, not a right. Always prioritize safety and yield the right of way to oncoming traffic and pedestrians.

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MBS Staff
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