Q: Is it legal to turn right on red from Tacoma Mall Boulevard onto South Steele Street? – Chris D., Puyallup
A: Now, this seems like a straightforward question.
Chris described it as such in a missive to Traffic Q&A headquarters.
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“My question is a simple one that I cannot find an answer to,” he wrote. “If you are driving north on Tacoma Mall Boulevard heading toward Steele Street and come to the light by the Red Robin and it is red, is it legal to turn right onto Steele after stopping at the red light and then proceed to 38th Street?”
We have faced this situation ourselves once or twice (or a dozen times, but who’s counting?) after a run to a certain establishment on Tacoma Mall Boulevard that purveys those tasty, fried morning pastries for which we have a weakness. We’ll call it by its initials, K.K.
Oftentimes, when returning from K.K. with powdered sugar on our shirts, we find ourselves stopped at the light at Tacoma Mall Boulevard and Steele, which is, to use a technical traffic-columnist term, “funky.”
Tacoma Mall Boulevard does not hit Steele squarely. Instead, it melds onto Steele at an angle that’s not the 90-degree one with which most drivers are familiar.
What’s more, two lanes of Tacoma Mall Boulevard head to the right (north) on Steele while a third lane splits off to let those drivers who wish to make a left turn do so.
So, do the state’s right-on-red laws apply there?
Let us first review what those laws say.
Here is the pertinent verbiage from RCW 46.61.055, titled, “Traffic control signal legend”:
“… the vehicle operators facing a steady circular red signal may, after stopping, proceed to make a right turn from a one-way or two-way street into a two-way street or into a one-way street carrying traffic in the direction of the right turn … unless a sign posted by a competent authority prohibits such movement.”
We loaded into the beat-up Honda and took a drive out there to look for such a sign last week. There was none.
Still, we asked Tacoma police spokeswoman Loretta Cool for backup.
“In this case, there is not a posted sign stating no right turn on red, so the turn on red light would be legal,” she said.
That’s from both lanes heading from Tacoma Mall Boulevard onto Steele, Cool added, provided drivers stay in their assigned lanes through the turn.
Also, remember “to make a complete stop” and be sure “the intersection is clear of pedestrian and vehicle traffic,” she said.
All points we plan to remember the next time we are returning from our a doughnut fix.