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Turning left at red lights 'can be a benefit'

The Australian Road Safety Foundation backs a trial on the Gold Coast which will see motorists permitted to turn left at red lights in a bid to ease congestion.

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Motorists will be able to turn left at a red light at several Gold Coast intersections as part of a trial to combat congestion.

This system operates in other Australian cities and we believe it can save drivers time and reduce congestion 

The "left turn red" system already operates in NSW, South Australia, the ACT and the Northern Territory.

A Gold Coast trial will allow motorists to turn left at a red light at some intersections.

A Gold Coast trial will allow motorists to turn left at a red light at some intersections.

Under the January trial funded by the Gold Coast City Council, signs will be displayed at certain intersections reading "left turn on red permitted after stopping" in black letters on a white background.

If the Gold Coast trial is successful, the system will be introduced elsewhere in Queensland.

But the state's peak motoring body does not support the move, saying it would compromise road safety.

"Studies conducted overseas have shown that crashes increase at intersections that allow motorists to turn left on red," RACQ safety policy manager Steve Spalding said.

"Advice to us from South Australia and NSW is that their existing left turn on red sites are gradually being removed.

"The consequence of mistakes [at these intersections] would be severe as motorists are turning into oncoming traffic moving at speed."

Transport and Main Roads Minister Scott Emerson said vehicles would be allowed to turn left after giving way to other vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists at selected intersections.

"This system operates in other Australian cities and we believe it can save drivers time and reduce congestion at some intersections," Mr Emerson said.

If a driver approaches a red light from the left-hand lane at one of the selected intersections, they must come to a complete stop, and if the path is clear of oncoming traffic, can turn left.

"Until the trial starts it will be business as usual on the roads, and all other red lights at other intersections must continue to be obeyed, otherwise the usual fines will apply," Gold Coast Mayor Tom Tate said.

Mr Spalding said the driving public needed to be educated properly about any changes of the road rules.

"The move also dilutes the message that red traffic lights mean stop, without exception," he said.

RACQ supports 'free' left turn slip lanes and green left turn arrows at traffic lights - although more costly - as safer options.

Australian Road Safety Foundation chief executive Russell White said he was also concerned it would  ‘‘dilute our pre-programming to stop at red lights’’.

‘‘Nationwide around half of the crashes we have ... occur at intersections,’’ he told 612 ABC Radio this morning.

He said the move would require cultural change.

‘‘It’s important that we manage it properly and [if we] educate the general public properly I think it can probably be a benefit,’’ he said.

Locations of "left turn red" intersections will be decided within weeks.