The California Right-Turn Law Isn’t a Law on Public Safety

The California Right-Turn Law Isn’t a Law on Public Safety

Column: Is turning right on a red light your California birthright? Absolutely not! If you live in California, you’ve got some rights. Not only are you a citizen, you’re also a resident. This means you’re allowed to use the right of way in places like roads and sidewalks, but the state says you also cannot “stop, or turn right, or enter any private road or driveway” in many cases (see, for example, section 6.0011 of The Driver License Laws of California [PDF]). These ordinances allow cities, counties and private property owners to enact restrictions on how you can drive on private property, so long as you don’t interfere with anyone else.

And the restrictions on private roads, like the ones in Los Angeles, vary from city to city, according to the specific municipal ordinances at issue. For example, in Berkeley, where the mayor’s office said the ordinance is about safety and public safety, the only right-turn restrictions in effect are in a small parking lot on the west side of campus. You can’t cross the street in front of the lot. Other restrictions include the requirement that if you park there, you’re banned from leaving the lot, and the requirement that if you drive off a ramp, you get a special permit to drive uphill on the street to get back to the parking lot.

In other words, if you don’t want to get ticketed and blocked from using a public street, you’re stuck with the option of leaving the lot and crossing private property to get to where you’re going. For that reason, critics of the law say it’s a violation of the California Constitution, and that it is “a thinly disguised attempt to limit the rights of its citizens.”

This column has two main takeaways: 1) It’s a bit misleading to call this a ban on right turns and 2) This doesn’t make you a less American.

I wish the law enforcement people had just gone through their public safety checklist on what “safety” really means.

I’m not a huge proponent of the right-of-way laws — especially in California — but I’m a huge supporter of public safety, which is why I am offended by the mayor’s statement that the laws are about safety (as if the only safety issue would be parking there

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