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California law is pleasantly accommodating when it comes to turning right on a red light. It understands that we have places to go and people to see, and will do whatever we can to safely avoid those miserable seconds of needless waiting when the coast is clear. Still, drivers sometimes wonder just how free they are to turn right on red. Is it illegal, for instance, to turn right from any lane except the one closest to the curb? Not entirely.

Section 21453 of the California Vehicle Code states that in general, drivers should approach their right turns and make them as close as they can to the right-hand curb or edge of the street. However, this rule doesn’t apply if the turning vehicle is coming from a road with three marked lanes for traffic moving in one direction, and is turning from the middle lane on that road onto another road. In this situation, you are allowed to turn right from the lane that is not immediately next to the curb, as long as it is the middle lane and not the farthest left one. Likewise, if you’re turning right from a one-way street, you are allowed to make your turn from any lane – even the farthest left lane.
Still confused? An easy way to check yourself for safe turns on red is to make sure there is another lane in your same direction that is to the left of you if you’re on a two-way street, or make sure you are making your turn from a one-way street. And remember, it is still illegal, in any situation, to turn right on a red arrow, or when the sign says “No Turn on Red.”


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