The Vehicle and Traffic Law (VTL) in New York, provides for a motor vehicle operator's ability to make a right turn at a red light. This law was initially enacted primarily as a gas savings measure. Today, making a right on red has become commonplace on Long Island and across the country. In fact many drivers become impatient and even blow their horn, if the car ahead of them does not quickly pursue making a right turn on red. This has become a problem that has been made more complicated, by the increasing presence of red light cameras at intersections across Long Island. As a result of the subjective nature of red light cameras, many people understandably no longer want to make a right on red for fear of receiving a ticket in the mail.
In New York, the law indicates that such drivers are within their rights. Section 1111 of the New York State Vehicle and Traffic Law (NYSVTL) sets forth in part that, "Traffic facing a steady circular red signal may (emphasis added) cautiously enter the intersection to make a right turn after stopping as required by paragraph one of this subdivision... ." The key word in the statute is "may", which indicates that making a right on red is in fact optional and not mandatory. If it was mandatory, the word "may" would have been substituted with the word "shall" in the statute.
In that making a right on red in New York is optional, drivers should be more patient and respectful of the preceding driver's lawful decision not to make the turn. We already have far too much road rage in existence, without adding to the list of reasons why drivers become enraged. Remember that the person driving the car in front of you, doesn't want a ticket any more than you do. As the holiday season approaches, patience while driving will be more virtuous and necessary than ever before.
Long Island Lawyer
Paul A. Lauto, Esq.