Chelan County commissioners are concerned about a bill in the state legislature to put a statewide restriction on turns at red lights. 

The bill would ban drivers from turning right at red lights within 1,000 feet of specific buidings and areas, such as schools, libraries, hospitals and public transit centers. 

County Commissioner Kevin Overbay says it's a state response on something that needs to be done on the local level. 

"I'll use this as an example," said Overbay. "If you have ever traveled 9th Street in Wenatchee right there at Chelan Avenue, right next to the clinic (Confluence Health), the city of Wenatchee did that very thing. They put up a signage that said no free right turn because of pedestrian traffic. It was something that was done localized. It doesn't need to be drafted by the state." 

Overbay represents Chelan County in the Washington State Association of Counties, which has formally come out against the right turn bill. 

Traffic fatalities in Washington are at a three-decade high as 745 people died in crashes in 2022.  

Lawmakers are now looking at several traffic-safety bills to bring the number down. Another one would lower the blood alcohol level for DUI's from .08 percent to .05 percent. 

The right-on-red bill is being considered to reduce crashes and close calls between cars and pedestrians or cyclists. 

Washington law allows right hand turns at red lights if the driver makes a complete stop and the road is clear of oncoming traffic, including pedestrians in the adjacent crosswalk. 

Both the right-hand turn bill and the DUI bill are sponsored in the Senate by Democrat John Lovick, who is a former State Patrol Trooper. 

Overbay says right turn legislation is an overreach into local priorities. 

"To have a statewide mandate is just unnecessary, and in my opinion, an overreach in the legislature, when realistically, it would require us to have to do a countywide evaluation of where we’re at, and then additional signage and expense," Overbay said. "That's really not necessary." 

No one, including any member of the Washington State Association of Counties testified against the measure during a Senate committee hearing. 

The bill would ban right turns at red lights within 1,000 feet of the following. 

  • elementary or secondary school;
  • child care center;
  • public park or playground;
  • recreation center or facility;
  • library;
  • public transit center;
  • hospital;
  • senior center; and any other facility with high levels of pedestrian traffic determined by the appropriate local jurisdiction or WSDOT.

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