The News Desk is a collection of news, notes and breaking items affecting the Fredericksburg community.
Getting There: It’s legal to make a right turn on red arrow in Va.
BY SCOTT SHENK
THE FREE LANCE-STAR
A reader recently called in to ask a question about a traffic signal that caused some confusion, but her story also raised the issue of something else that is all too common these days: road rage.
The reader said she was recently out and about and used the Hood Drive shortcut off of Courthouse Road in Spotsylvania. While she was at the light waiting to turn right onto U.S. 1, she thought she had to wait because the red light was an arrow. The driver behind her didn’t agree, and let her frustration be known once both had turned onto U.S. 1 (more on that in a minute).
At some intersections in the area, arrows instead of light “balls” are used for right-turn-only lanes. This is the case at Hood Drive.
The reader was sure that you can’t turn right on red arrows, so she stayed put.
First, the answer to her question: Can you turn right on red arrows?
Yes, in Virginia you can turn right on those red arrows, according to Peter Hedrich, the Virginia Department of Transportation’s area traffic engineer.
But Virginia is one of only a few states that allow such turns, said VDOT’s Kelly Hannon. And this can cause some confusion.
So VDOT will start changing the red arrows to red balls. There will still be green arrows at these right-turn-only lanes, which gives vehicles the right of way over pedestrians.
Now, as for the road rage.
The reader said the driver behind her “was going crazy, waving her middle finger and screaming.”
Over a minute or so lost at a red light?
Hey, we all lose our cool every now and then, but remember this next time you feel a little road rage coming on: The other driver just might be crazier than you.
Road rage can and does escalate into more than a waving middle finger.
Here’s a little food for thought.
The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety conducted a study looking at more than 10,000 road rage incidents committed over a seven-year period and turned up some deadly statistics.
The study found that road rage incidents led to at least 218 murders and left more than 12,610 injured.
Dear Scott: I am very confident that making a left turn or a U-turn on a red arrow is illegal in Virginia.
I live off U.S. 17 (in Stafford) and witness lots of vehicles—especially out-of-state vehicles—turning left or making U-turns on those red arrows—so apparently it is legal somewhere.
Could VDOT install signs notifying drivers that they must wait for a green arrow before turning left?
I was nearly involved in an accident this weekend when I had the green light and a vehicle from New York pulled a U-turn at the intersection on U.S. 17 with the commuter lot.
This was not the first time, and I have seen several near misses in the past not only there, but at numerous intersections along 17 and other area roadways.
—Kevin Cooper, Stafford
Of course, they probably do things a little differently in New York than we do here in the ’Burg, but you are right, left turns on red arrows (or any red light) are illegal in Virginia—and probably everywhere else in the civilized world.
Some drivers are the complete opposite of the reader above—who, though relying on faulty information, was concerned about doing the right thing—and rather do what suits them best, regardless of the law or the danger they cause.
In this case, Hannon said VDOT installs signs to help at spots with bad crash histories, but they don’t put them up everywhere because confusion could ensue at some spots and drivers could just start tuning out signs if there are too many.
There haven’t been any U-turn-involved crashes at the U.S. 17 intersection, so VDOT will leave that signal as it is.
Next time, just be extra wary of those cars with New York plates.
Scott Shenk: 540/374-5436