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Why can’t drivers make a left turn on red on a one-way street as they do in other states?

Patrick Gannon


Q. Why can’t they revise the left hand turn and allow drivers to make a left hand turn at a red light on a one way street as they do in other states?

A. The General Assembly could do it if the political will was there to do so. Most states already allow left turns on red under certain circumstances. But currently, state law in North Carolina (G.S. 20-158) only allows right turns on red.

Lawmakers back in 2003 tried to pass a law that would have allowed lefts on red at intersections where drivers turn left from a one-way street onto another one-way street. The law would have required a motorist to turn from and enter the leftmost lanes, according to a 2003 article from The Associated Press.

There are a number of intersections in the downtown Wilmington area where such turns would be possible.

Proponents of that legislation argued that allowing lefts on red would improve traffic flow and reduce pollution from idling car engines. Opponents, including advocates for the disabled and blind, argued that it would increase dangers for pedestrians at street crossings.

The bill made it to the final stages of the legislative process, then died, although the exact reasons couldn’t be determined.

Back in 2003, legislative staff estimated that new signage – at intersections where lefts on red wouldn’t be permitted – would cost about $36,000 statewide. In other words, cost didn’t appear to be a major consideration.

Similar bills were introduced in subsequent sessions but didn’t make it far in the legislative process.


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