Red Light

Drivers Beware: A Seemingly Safe and Legal Driving Maneuver Could Come with Potentially Life-Changing Hazards

Red LightFor more than 30 years, Fraser Trebilcock attorney Gary Rogers has handled automobile negligence litigation. Recently, he has litigated a number of claims arising out of what you might think would be a rather safe driving maneuver – turning right on a red light, after determining there is no oncoming traffic.

“However,” said Rogers, “it is a potentially dangerous situation.”

Let’s set the scene: a driver stops for a red traffic signal, intending to turn right. As we know, this is permitted under Michigan law, as long as the driver comes to a complete stop in advance of a cross walk and does not attempt to turn until there is no oncoming traffic.

After looking both ways, the driver remains focused on checking for approaching traffic from the left. When any oncoming traffic clears, the driver takes his foot off the brake his vehicle moves forward across the pedestrian crosswalk, as he begins to make his right turn.

“Suddenly,” said Rogers, “seemingly from nowhere, a pedestrian or bicyclist is in the crosswalk directly in the path of the vehicle – resulting in a personal injury accident. Serious injuries or even death can result.”

From the pedestrian or bicyclist’s point of view, the light is red for the vehicle and the crossing signal shows that it is safe to cross. Unfortunately, even though the driver of the vehicle may have initially looked both ways, he did not check to his right again before turning right.

“I have seen this scenario repeatedly,” said Rogers.

Here are some tips to avoid these traumatic collisions.

Drivers: Always check one more time by looking to your right before you take your foot off the brake to start your turn, to ensure that there are no pedestrians or bicyclists attempting to cross the road in front of you.

Pedestrians and Bicyclists: Be attentive when attempting to cross the street. Evaluate the situation and attempt to determine if the vehicle nearest you has its turn signal activated, indicating an intention to turn right. From a pedestrian or cyclist’s standpoint, if it looks like the stopped vehicle is going to make a right turn do not attempt to cross the street until you are sure you have made eye contact with the driver and you are certain the driver has seen you getting ready to cross the street. Bicyclists should be especially wary of this situation because bicyclists approach the intersection and enter the crosswalk much faster than a pedestrian. This obviously gives the motorist less time to see the oncoming bicycle and react.

Any type of vehicle can do serious harm to a pedestrian or bicyclist, and not all drivers are as aware of their surroundings as they should be.

“Please be aware of this danger at intersections and be cautious,” Rogers concluded. “Nothing good happens with these accidents.  A moment of caution by all can avoid serious injury or worse.”


Fraser Trebilcock attorney Gary Rogers is recognized as one of the top civil defense attorneys in the area of automobile related cases. He has co-written Michigan No-Fault Law-The Insurers’ Perspective, a handbook for handling claims under Michigan’s No-Fault Automobile legislation. He is a member of the Michigan Defense Trial Counsel and serves as a court appointed case evaluator (defense) in three counties in Michigan. Contact Gary at or 517.377.0828.

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