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Legislature approves tighter rules on when a city can prohibit right turns on red lights in Arizona

The state Legislature has passed a bill that would add new regulations for when a city can prohibit drivers from making a right turn after stopping at a red light in Arizona.

The bill would prevent local governments from putting up signs blocking such right turns unless an engineer first determines that turning right on red is unsafe.

The director of the National Motorist Association, a driver advocacy group, lobbied before lawmakers.

The association is pushing for similar laws in other states. It also supports ideas such as raising the blood-alcohol content limit for driving to 0.12% instead of 0.08%. 

The bill on right hand turns is waiting for action from Gov. Katie Hobbs, who has not indicated if she will sign or veto it.

Jay Beeber, policy director for the association, said there may be legitimate reasons to restrict such turns, whether at all times or during certain hours of the day. That could be due to restricted sight lines or heavy pedestrian traffic.

But he said that current Arizona law doesn't require such a justification. And Beeber said that allows communities to erect such signs, and for reasons that have nothing to do with public safety.

"It's part of a larger agenda to restrict our movements, to restrict the ability to use a car and make it slower and more difficult. So, unfortunately, it's not really based on safety,'' he said. "It's based on, hey, we want to make driving more difficult.''

That got the attention of state Sen. Jake Hoffman. 

"The folks who are doing this and engineering this, they're altering the choice architecture to make driving and make cars something that people don't want to do,'' the Queen Creek Republican said. "It's artificial. It's not real.''

But state Rep. Patty Contreras, D-Phoenix, called creation of a state law "unnecessary.''

"I think communities can do a better job of determining whether or not they need stop signs or do-not-turn-right-on-red signs much better,'' she said. And Contreras said she believes that cities don't just erect them without reason.

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Greg Hahne started as a news intern at KJZZ in 2020 and returned as a field correspondent in 2021. He learned his love for radio by joining Arizona State University's Blaze Radio, where he worked on the production team.