Minnesota law allows motorists to make a right turn on red after coming to a complete stop, unless there’s a sign indicating the turn is not allowed.

But Drive reader Mark wanted to know if the same rules apply when the right turn lane is separated from through traffic by an island, such as at the top of freeway entrance and exit ramps.

“Do you need to come to a complete stop if through traffic has a red light, or do you only need to yield to cross traffic?” he asked in an e-mail.

Anytime a driver encounters a red light, the motorist turning right should make a complete stop, check for traffic and make sure the coast is clear before proceeding, said Pete Hosmer, owner of A+ Driving School in White Bear Lake.

That’s what drivers turning right from eastbound Bass Lake Road to southbound Bottineau Boulevard in Crystal are supposed to do. The right turn lane is separated from through traffic by a concrete divider and has a stoplight controlling traffic flow, including right turns. When the light is red, drivers must stop behind the white line and wait for a green light or until there is a safe opportunity to make the turn.

“Be sure to watch for oncoming cars making left turns in front of you,” the Minnesota Driver’s Manual says. “Sometimes oncoming traffic will have a green arrow before your light turns green.”

Things are different at the signalized intersection of Lexington Avenue and Yankee Doodle Road in Eagan, where drivers turning right don’t actually encounter a red light. Instead, signs instruct motorists making right turns to yield — meaning, slow down before merging onto the road and be prepared to stop for pedestrians, bicyclists and vehicles that have the right-of way. Turns can be made when there is a break in traffic.

The rules are less clear when right turn lanes are separated from through traffic but not controlled with a stoplight or yield sign.

In those cases Mike Torkelson, a driving instructor with AAA Minneapolis, said he would “instruct a student [and drivers] to yield to traffic when making a right turn.”

Drive reader Jerry, a driver’s education instructor on leave due to the pandemic, said he’s seen an increase in lawless driving during the virus-related restrictions, with motorists running red lights on right turns among the most frequent transgressions.

His advice: “Drive defensively and be careful, it’s a jungle out there.”

For the record, failure to come to a complete stop at a stop sign or a red light can result in a fine of $300 or more.

And about left turns

Another Drive reader asked about motorists turning left from a through lane after stopping at a stoplight.

“If they decide to turn left, using the turning signal and there are no cars in the turning lane, and they cross a solid white line, is it against the law?”

Yes it is, said Red Wing Police Chief Roger Pohlman.

That behavior is called a “Change of Course,” because the driver intended to proceed through the intersection but decided to make a left turn from the through lane. Minnesota law requires drivers to be in the proper lane before making a turn.

Drivers caught in the wrong lane should proceed through the intersection when the signal turns green, then find a proper place to turn around and return to the intersection to turn, Pohlman said.

 

Follow news about traffic and commuting at The Drive on startribune.com. Got traffic or transportation questions, or story ideas? E-mail drive@startribune.com, tweet @stribdrive or call Tim Harlow at 612-673-7768.

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