Ask A Cop: When is it Okay to Turn Right on Red?

Have a question for the Sheriff's Office? Let us know.

Is there anything you have ever wanted to know from the police department? Well, this is your chance to ask. We will be teaming up with the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office and other local law enforcement agencies from around the county to answer your questions.

Whether you have a question about certain laws and how they might affect you, your family or friends or how to stay safe in certain situations, we want you to ask them. Every week we will run one question and answer. To submit a question, email Shannon.burkey@patch.com.


I've been in many debates with people regarding the "right on red" stoplight California traffic law. I know the law specifies that you can turn right on red only after you've come to a complete stop, checked to be sure it's clear to turn safely and as long as there isn't a traffic sign stating "no right on red." However, I also thought that legally to turn right on a red light, you were suppose to be in the furthest most right hand lane? A local example of this inquiry would be the 41st Avenue exit coming from Santa Cruz heading southbound. When you exit here and are planning to turn right onto 41st Avenue toward the mall, everybody in the middle lane also turns right on red and anybody who doesn't follow along gets honked at. So, help me end this many time debated rule amongst my family and friends. Does the law specify which lane you have to be in to turn right on red? Or are all lanes permitted to do so?


Unless there is a sign in place specifically prohibiting the right turn on red from a particular lane, it is allowed. Vehicles turning right on red from both right turn lanes onto 41st Avenue from southbound Highway 1 expedites the flow of traffic and prevents the backup of vehicles on the off-ramp and slow lane of the freeway. As long as each vehicle comes to a complete stop at the limit line and waits to proceed until it is safe to do so, a right turn is allowed from both lanes.

~Sarah Jackson, California Highway Patrol

John Pilge September 26, 2012 at 05:48 PM
The southbound offramp to 41st Avenue actually has THREE lanes. The leftmost lane is ONLY for LEFT turns. The center lane and the rightmost lane are for Right turns. See the photo: http://i1165.photobucket.com/albums/q600/iheara/41-turn_zps495d4730.jpg
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