All turns on red arrow are prohibited

I was recently asked a question about turning on a red arrow. The intersection in question was on state Route 37 at the Pyramid Mall just east of Massena. Vehicles exiting the westerly exit face a red arrow at the intersection with Route 37. The question this person raised was whether or not it was permissible to make a right turn at this red arrow – there is no sign prohibiting a right on red at this location.

The answer to his question is “no,” it is not permissible to turn right or left in the direction a red arrow shows. Section 1111(d)(3) of New?York State Vehicle and Traffic Law states: “Traffic, except pedestrians, facing a steady red arrow signal may not enter the intersection to make the movement indicated by such arrow.” When viewing a red arrow, whether it is a right arrow or a left arrow, it is not permissible to turn in the direction the red arrow shows. When it becomes permissible to make the intended turn, the red arrow will not be showing.

When a red arrow is used, it is generally because of some factor or factors that reduce the safety of that movement. At the above mentioned intersection, speed of the Route 37 traffic, combined with visibility of traffic from the left, is all taken into consideration. Although not often used, the red arrow adds more emphasis to the prohibited movement. However, it means the same as a ball red indication coupled with a sign prohibiting a right or left turn on red.

The federal “Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices” also addresses a red arrow; it allows for a traffic control device (sign) to be installed which would permit the turn indicated by the red arrow. I am not aware of any such combination in upstate New York, but you may find this situation somewhere else in the U.S. The sign could read “Right Turn on Red Arrow Permitted” or similar. You certainly won’t see it often, but you may encounter it somewhere.

A red left-turn red arrow was used until a few years ago in Saranac Lake on state Route 86 at the intersection with Bloomingdale Avenue to prohibit southbound traffic on Route 86 from turning left onto Bloomingdale Avenue while Route 86 traffic faced a ball green signal. That was changed several years ago when a new signal was installed at this intersection. At the time of this article, I am not aware of any red turn arrows in Franklin County. If I am wrong, someone will let me know.

Meanwhile, I welcome questions such as the one that generated this article. If you are unsure of something involving vehicle and traffic law or safety, let me know. It may make a good subject for a subsequent column.

For more articles on traffic law and safety, go to the traffic safety board’s website at and click on “Traffic Safety Board” under “Departments”; then look for “Did You Know” articles under “services.”