No right turn on red signal – What’s the real deal? [Newbie guide]

Updated Aug 17, 2020 | Same topic: Beginner's Guide

Many confused drivers end up getting honked from behind because of this.     

Motorists worth their license know that red light is the universally-accepted symbol for stopping, particularly at intersections. It’s easy enough to understand if your general direction is either straight ahead or you need to make a left turn.

But if you find a bright red traffic light barring you from making a right turn while everyone else on your lane is at a standstill, is that legal? After all, you’re not going against the flow of traffic. If anything, you’ll actually be merging with the flow of cars coming from your left, right?  

Traffic light

Is it legal for traffic lights to prevent a right turn at intersections?

Generally, the rule is that cars should be able to turn right at an intersection even during a traffic stop (also known as a right turn on red or a free right), unless a traffic light or sign explicitly indicates that it is not allowed.

Of course, the assumption is that the traffic lights are working properly and the relevant signage is posted clearly, not obscured by other objects such as tree branches and concrete posts. 

SUV turning right

You'll need to position yourself close to the rightmost side of the road

Many horror stories abound of drivers blissfully unaware (or deliberately made ignorant) that right turns on red aren’t allowed at certain intersections, only to end up being flagged down by traffic enforcers waiting just beyond the turn. That’s a topic for another time, however.

By and large, intersections allow cars to make a right turn at any given time, and it’s easier when there’s a dedicated turning bay that can be used. The primary reminder at all times is to exercise caution.

>>> Related: 6 tips to identify a fake traffic enforcer in the Philippines

Bike and escooter

Watch out for other road users on the right side

Prior to making the turn, make sure that you’re closer to the rightmost curb instead of the left. The corresponding signal lamp should be engaged, especially if you’re coming from the opposite side of the lane.

Yield to pedestrians who might be crossing the road, and watch out for cyclists using the bicycle lane, which is close to the right-hand curb. Remember to approach the turn at a reduced speed since you don’t have the right-of-way, and come to a complete stop when necessary as you wait for oncoming traffic to yield and let you merge.

Pick up more driving tips for newbies at

Joseph Paolo Estabillo

Joseph Paolo Estabillo


Joseph holds a degree in Journalism from the University of the Philippines Diliman and has been writing professionally since 1999. He has written episodes for CNN Philippines' motoring show Drive, and has worked on corporate projects for MG Philippines and Pilipinas Shell. Aside from being’s Content Lead, he also writes content for numerous car dealerships in the U.S., spanning multiple brands such as Alfa Romeo, Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, and Maserati, among others.


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