Published 12:35 pm Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Little-known Virginia law prohibits a right turn on red arrows

By Diana McFarland

Managing editor

Who knew that turning right when the arrow is red is a traffic violation in Virginia? Apparently, a lot of motorists don’t know, maybe even a majority.

Motorists using the new Benn’s Church intersection are having to learn about the “no right on a red arrow” regulation because several of the alternating green and red turn arrows are used there.

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 Motorists turning right off Brewer’s Neck onto Benn’s Church Boulevard toward Smithfield as well as those turning right from Suffolk toward Brewer’s Neck are all faced with red and green arrow lights. And when the arrow is red, a right turn is illegal. {mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

“It’s very deceiving,” said Lt. James Pope with the Isle of Wight County Sheriff’s Office, who was also personally under the impression that it was OK to turn right despite a red arrow.

After all, everyone learns that they can turn right on red, Pope said about turning right on a circular, steady red light.

The intersection review did not indicate a sign concerning turning right on a red arrow at Brewer’s Neck and Benn’s Church boulevards was to be installed and efforts to have that question answered by VDOT by press time were not successful. Nor was a sign indicating the same would be added at Benn’s Grant Boulevard and Route 10, according to the intersection review.

Other changes include adding indicators for turning on red from the right lane lanes traveling Benn’s Grant Boulevard to Route 258, according to the VDOT intersection review.

The changes are to be implemented sometime this summer, according to Isle of Wight County Project Manager Jamie Oliver, who supervised the locally administered project.

Pope said the Isle of Wight County Sheriff’s Office is not enforcing the traffic violation in the case of turning right on a red arrow because most people are unaware of the distinction, and also because no turn on red signs are located at the intersection of Benn’s Grant and Brewer’s Neck boulevards.

The Sheriff’s Office does not want to confuse people, but if the opportunity arises, deputies will educate motorists, Pope said.

“We realize that it is not a known law and we are doing the education part,” Pope said.

At the intersection of Benn’s Grant and Brewer’s Neck boulevards, new signage concerning turning right on a red arrow is also expected to be erected, according to VDOT’s safety report.

Specific sign changes include removing the “Brewer’s Neck Boulevard next” sign and replacing it with a destination sign for Portsmouth, Newport News and Smithfield on westbound Route 10. The report also calls for removing the “Brewer’s Neck Boulevard next” sign coming southbound on 258 and adding destination signs for Smithfield and Suffolk.

Traffic engineers also called for changing the pavement markings on Route 10 approaching the intersection and reapplying lines to better indicate a lane shift, according to the report.

When the intersection opened, motorists complained of getting confused as to what lane to enter as they approached the intersection from Smithfield. In other cases, truck drivers became confused heading to the intersection on Route 258 and were often having to make a U-turn on Route 10 to go to Suffolk.

The intersection project cost about $5.4 million, with VDOT funding half the cost and the remaining cost coming from the developers and landowners surrounding the Benn’s Church intersection — Benn’s Grant, St. Luke’s Village, Riverside and the O’Neal property.


Turning on a red arrow

A red arrow means you must stop if you intend to move in the direction of the arrow. You may not proceed in the direction of the arrow as long as the red arrow is displayed, unless signs are posted at the intersection that read, “Right on Red Arrow After Stop” or “Left on Red Arrow After Stop.” Virginia law prohibits right and left turns at red arrow lights.

Information courtesy of the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles driver’s manual.  {/mprestriction}