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Treat red arrows as you would any stoplight

Is there any significance to a red arrow stop light vs. a red circle stop light? For example, (and I know you get this a zillion times), by Hometown Buffet, if eastbound on Stewart, turning right onto Barnett Road, both right turn lanes have red arrow type lights.

Yet I believe you can make a right turn on a red light there, since there's no sign saying no turn on red.

This is the cause of much confusion in our household. My wife received a citation in front of Hometown Buffet for "failure to yield to a traffic control device," but we were never sure if it meant that she illegally made the right turn on the red when it's not allowed, or that she didn't come to a complete stop.

We just paid the ticket, and went on with life.

— Jaye Mathisen

This is a good question, Jaye. Yes, we've talked ad nauseam about the Hometown Buffet intersection, but I don't know that we've ever distinguished between a red arrow light and a circular red light.

Your question is answered under ORS 811.360, which covers permitted turns and improper turns at stoplights. It says the driver of a vehicle who is intending to turn at an intersection where there is a traffic control device showing a steady circular red signal or a steady red arrow signal may do either of the following without violating the red light statute:

  • Make a right turn into a two-way street.
  • Make a right or left turn into a one-way street in the direction of traffic upon the one-way street.

So, as you can see, a red arrow and a red circular light are treated as the same thing. The red arrow is used for the additional purpose of controlling direction, showing that you can only travel in one direction from that lane. The only time you can't turn on a red light is if there is a sign expressly prohibiting the turn on a red light.

You also have to yield to pedestrians and other vehicles that may have the right of way as you're turning.

Regarding your wife's citation, you don't mention that she got it from an officer, so I'm going to make the assumption that her ticket was one of the photo red light tickets given at that intersection.

In almost all cases where I've seen the photo ticket, usually shown me at traffic school check-in, it's not because the turn wasn't allowed, because it is, but because the driver failed to come to a complete stop as required before taking advantage of the law above that allows a turn on a red light, whether red arrow or red circle.

Dace Cochran, a patrol sergeant with the Jackson County Sheriff's Department, writes a weekly Q&A column on police issues for the Mail Tribune. Have a question for him? Write to Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501, or e-mail cochradc@jacksoncounty.org.