Washington Traffic Rule Update: Understanding the Right Turn on Red Rule 2024

Welcome, Washington drivers! As of April 23rd, 2024, some key changes have been implemented regarding the right turn on red rule. This article aims to provide a comprehensive understanding of these updates, ensuring safe and efficient navigation through intersections across the state.

Right Turns on Red: A National Standard with Local Variations

Turning right on a red light, after a complete stop and yielding the right of way, is a common practice throughout the United States. However, each state has the authority to establish specific guidelines and exceptions. In Washington, the right turn on red has been a longstanding rule, but recent updates aim to enhance safety for pedestrians and cyclists, particularly in high-traffic areas.

Understanding the Previous Right Turn on Red Rule

Prior to 2024, Washington drivers facing a steady red light could proceed with a right turn if the following conditions were met:

  • Complete Stop: The driver must come to a complete stop before the designated stop line or crosswalk.
  • Yielding Right of Way: The driver must yield the right of way to all pedestrians in the crosswalk and oncoming traffic.
  • Clear View: The driver must have a clear view of all directions before proceeding with the turn.

What’s New in 2024? Three Key Updates

  1. Increased Signage:

The Washington Department of Transportation (WSDOT) is placing a greater emphasis on clear signage. This includes:

  • “No Turn on Red” Signs: More intersections, particularly in urban areas like Seattle, Spokane, Tacoma, and Bellevue, will now display prominent “No Turn on Red” signs. These signs will override the general right-turn-on-red rule, requiring drivers to come to a complete stop and wait for a green light or a turn signal.
  • Improved Visibility: Signage will be strategically placed for optimal visibility, with larger fonts and reflective materials used to enhance nighttime visibility.
  1. Dedicated Right-Turn Lanes with Signals:

The WSDOT is implementing a new approach at select intersections with high traffic volume and complex pedestrian crossings. These intersections will feature dedicated right-turn lanes with their own traffic signals. This separates right-turning vehicles from through traffic, aiming to reduce the risk of collisions between cars and pedestrians crossing the street. This approach is expected to improve safety and traffic flow in busy areas like Everett, Olympia, and Bellingham.

  1. Sensor Technology Integration:

Some intersections will be equipped with advanced sensor technology. These sensors will detect the presence of pedestrians and cyclists in crosswalks, even if they haven’t yet activated the crosswalk signal. This information will be factored into the traffic light cycle, potentially extending red light durations to ensure safe passage for pedestrians and cyclists. This technology is initially being piloted in select locations with high pedestrian and cyclist traffic, such as Kirkland, Renton, and Federal Way.

The Importance of Following the Updated Right Turn on Red Rule

These updates emphasize the importance of driver awareness and adherence to traffic regulations. By following the new guidelines, drivers can significantly contribute to:

  • Enhanced Pedestrian Safety: Increased signage and dedicated right-turn lanes aim to minimize the risk of collisions between turning vehicles and pedestrians.
  • Improved Cyclist Safety: Sensor technology helps prioritize the safety of cyclists crossing intersections.
  • Smoother Traffic Flow: Clearer signage and dedicated turn lanes aim to reduce confusion and hesitation, leading to smoother traffic movement.

Tips for Safe Right Turns on Red in Washington

Here are some essential tips to ensure safe right turns on red in Washington:

  • Always Come to a Complete Stop: Never attempt a right turn on red without coming to a complete stop.
  • Double-Check Signage: Look out for “No Turn on Red” signs, as they override the general right-turn rule.
  • Yield the Right of Way: Pedestrians in crosswalks and oncoming traffic always have the right of way, regardless of the light cycle.
  • Scan All Directions: Before proceeding with the turn, ensure a clear view of oncoming traffic, pedestrians, and cyclists.
  • Avoid Distractions: Put down your phone and avoid distractions while approaching and navigating intersections.
  • Proceed with Caution: Even with a green turn signal or clear view, proceed slowly and cautiously, anticipating potential hazards.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) – Washington Right Turn on Red Rule

  1. Where can I find information about specific intersection regulations?

The Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) maintains an online database with detailed information about traffic regulations at various intersections across the state. You can access this database through the WSDOT website [WSDOT traffic laws ON Washington.gov].

  1. What happens if I violate the “No Turn on Red” sign?

Violating a “No Turn on Red” sign is considered a traffic infraction in Washington. This can result in a fine, which may vary depending on the specific location and severity of the violation.

  1. What if the traffic light malfunctions?

In the case of a malfunctioning traffic light, treat the intersection as a four-way stop. Come to a complete stop, yield the right of way to all oncoming traffic and pedestrians, and proceed with caution when it’s safe to do so.

  1. How will the sensor technology at pilot intersections impact drivers?

At pilot intersections with sensor technology, drivers may experience slightly longer red light durations compared to traditional traffic signals. This is because the sensor technology prioritizes the safety of pedestrians and cyclists, potentially extending red lights to ensure their safe passage.

  1. Who should I contact if I have further questions about the right turn on red rule?

For further inquiries regarding the right turn on red rule or any other traffic regulations in Washington, you can contact the WSDOT at [WSDOT contact information ON Washington.gov] or visit their website for more information.


  • Staying informed about traffic regulations is crucial for safe driving in Washington.
  • Practicing defensive driving techniques and prioritizing pedestrian and cyclist safety is essential for a smooth and responsible driving experience.


The updated right turn on red rule in Washington reflects a commitment to prioritizing pedestrian and cyclist safety. By understanding these changes, following the guidelines, and practicing safe driving behaviors, we can all contribute to a safer and more efficient transportation system across the state.

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MBS Staff
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