Gridlock Guy: No right turns on red is the right move

Pedestrians walk on Peachtree on Wednesday, July 12, 2023 in Atlanta. (Michael Blackshire/

Credit: Michael Blackshire

Credit: Michael Blackshire

Pedestrians walk on Peachtree on Wednesday, July 12, 2023 in Atlanta. (Michael Blackshire/

As vehicles get bigger, as drivers are less attentive and responsible, and traffic safety stats skew the wrong way, a cadre of Atlanta City Council members is making a proposal they say will protect pedestrians.

Council member Jason Dozier leads the effort on a bill that would simply ban right turns on red in stretches of Downtown and Midtown Atlanta and in Castleberry Hill (near Mercedes-Benz Stadium). Dozier represents District 4, which encompasses Castleberry Hill.

The thought process behind banning right turns on red is very much pedestrian-oriented. Dozier said that drivers stopped in intersections will often edge into crosswalks to see if they have clearance to turn right. Once they see the gap to turn, they go for it.

Given that bigger vehicles have bigger blind spots, motorists often miss someone trying to cross the street from their right side, opposite of where they sit.

Just as left turns across oncoming traffic are some of the most dangerous moves for drivers, right turns on red create one of the least safe interactions between vehicles and pedestrians.

Dozier has prioritized pedestrian safety in his recent policy portfolio, especially after being hit while on a bicycle himself. He helped get two laws passed in 2023 meant to decrease vehicle traffic near the Atlanta BeltLine: bans on new drive-thrus and gas stations within a half-mile of the big pedestrian path.

Dozier said, per the AJC’s Riley Bunch’s report on the bill proposal, that he and the other bill sponsors are choosing Downtown, Midtown, and Castleberry Hill because of the large number of pedestrians for various events in those zones. Dozier’s brush with a vehicle happened on his trip to or from an Atlanta festival.

According to a fascinating story and study map from Propel ATL, a pedestrian and cyclist advocacy organization, pedestrian fatalities in Atlanta have risen 52% from 2020 to 2022. 38 pedestrians lost their lives on the city’s streets two years ago. While overall traffic fatality numbers increased in Georgia in 2022, the number in Atlanta actually decreased. Yet more pedestrians died. None, however, were cyclists, as the cycling infrastructure is slowly increasing in Atlanta.

The bill’s proposed districts cover where large numbers of pedestrians travel on foot or bike, but not where the pedestrian crash rates are highest. Since so many people are on foot in Districts 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6 — which go right through the Downtown and Midtown areas — they have the highest number of pedestrian wrecks. But the percentage of incidents per pedestrian is lower than in some other sections with less people on foot or manual wheel.

Two out of every 10 people on foot District 12, according to Propel ATL’s report, are hit by vehicles. District 12 is south of the city center, near Hapeville and East Point. This means streets in this area were often designed to be far more friendly to cars than people. The study shows that this kind of traffic violence disproportionately affects people in lower income areas.

But Dozier’s bill does not extend to District 1 — yet, anyway. Dozier and his team selected the places with the most walkers first. If the initiative proves successful — it needs to be passed first — then the trend could continue elsewhere. Hopefully other cities will also take note.

Eliminating right turns on red is a relatively inexpensive way to bring valuable returns in safety. Even still, the proposal mandates a six-month warning for any intersection that bans the turns. So even small moves advance glacially.

If Atlanta goes forward with this change — and it should — they also need to re-time the traffic signals accordingly. Intersections with no pedestrians waiting in crosswalks should see shorter cycles. Atlanta traffic engineers should consider cycles that allow only pedestrians to move in all directions at certain times in intersections that warrant it.

Georgia Governor Brian Kemp recently announced he was freeing more than $1.5 billion from the state’s reserves to fund different transportation and infrastructure initiatives. The Gold Dome’s new session will appropriate how the state uses the funds. GDOT should see what Atlanta is proposing and look at other, rather inexpensive ways to nudge traffic in a safer direction.

No right turns on red, inconvenient as that may be for drivers, is a move in a safer direction.

Doug Turnbull, the PM drive Skycopter anchor for Triple Team Traffic on 95.5 WSB, is the Gridlock Guy. Download the Triple Team Traffic Alerts App to hear reports from the WSB Traffic Team automatically when you drive near trouble spots. Contact him at