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OPINION | DRIVETIME MAHATMA: Heed signs for making right on red

by Frank Fellone | March 19, 2022 at 3:22 a.m.

Dear Mahatma: May a driver turn right on a red arrow after a full stop? -- Larry

Dear Larry: Let's bring in another character. His name is Steve.

Steve is retired, has extensive experience in the highway business, likes a cold brewski and often visits Dickey-Stephens Ballpark to watch the Arkansas Travelers. That's where we see Steve and catch up.

Once, deep in conversation, Steve said something like this to us: Mahatma, you often don't give a straight answer to a simple question.

Like maybe to the one above, about which we are fixing to explain.

Part of the explanation is that driving involves humans -- drivers, traffic engineers, police, judges and legislators -- and all those humans can make what seems simple to be complicated.

Such as whether or not it's permissible to turn right on a red arrow after a stop.

The place in question is Rodney Parham Road, where it intersects with Mississippi Avenue and where two lanes go right from Rodney Parham under the Interstate 630 overpass. Our correspondent, Larry, didn't feel comfortable turning right on those red arrows. Making him feel even more uncomfortable were the drivers behind. Yeah, the ones honking and gesticulating.

Larry's impression was that a red arrow meant, as chiseled on the tablets, thou shalt not turneth in the direction of a red arrow, although it has been common practice for decades to turn right after a stop on a red ball.

Turns out that shortly after we asked the Little Rock Office of Traffic Dudes about this matter, signs appeared telling drivers it was kopecetic to turn right on that red arrow.

Hold that thought, and let's turn to a couple of traffic judges.

We first asked Vic Fleming, traffic judge in Little Rock, about this matter. State law does not allow such a turn, he said. We then asked Milas H. Hale III, the district judge in Sherwood. No one may turn right on a red arrow, he said.

Then Judge Fleming, who over the years has gone the extra mile to dispel the fog that typically fills our brain, forwarded some information that told us to look at the Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices.

Let's not quote the actual words of the MUTCD, which is written by and for engineers and thus mostly incomprehensible to ordinary people. Let's instead put it in layman's terms -- don't turn right on a red arrow unless a sign indicates that maneuver is permissible.

Which is what the traffic dudes did, coincidentally after our inquiry. Doing so, they said, resolves the conflict between state law and the Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices.

Some points to be made.

First, that we encourage all drivers to not turn on a red arrow unless there is a sign indicating such a thing is proper.

Second, is it any wonder why a straight answer is a tough thing to nail down?

Third, and specific to Steve, the next beer is on us.

Print Headline: Heed signs for making right on red


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