Flashing Yellow Turn Signals Debut at Intersections
By Office of Communication
Posted on January 03, 2012, January 03, 2012

Motorists will soon notice a new style of left-turn signals sprouting up at various intersections around Arlington. The new signals will flash, in yellow, indicating left-turning traffic must first yield to oncoming traffic and pedestrians before turning.
These new flashing-yellow-arrow left-turn signals are expected to help prevent crashes at high-traffic intersections and even reduce gasoline consumption because traffic keeps moving through intersections instead of idling.

The new signals are being introduced in Arlington in January and have been appearing in different cities across the country as a result of a decade-long national study conducted for the Federal Highway Administration. The study shows that drivers making a left turn facing a green ball signal display can too easily misinterpret the green signal as giving the right of way.

A flashing yellow arrow is more easily understood as a caution - meaning "yield to oncoming traffic before you turn left," said City of Arlington Traffic Engineer Paul Iwuchukwu.

"When on, the flashing yellow left-turn arrow means a vehicle is allowed to cautiously enter an intersection to make the turn, but the driver must first yield to oncoming vehicles and pedestrians, " Iwuchukwu said. "The beautiful thing about this is that, even when there seems to be confusion, it allows a motorist time to assess the situation before proceeding."

Basically, the new flashing yellow arrow provides a more direct message than the traditional circular green indication for left turns. It reduces confusion because the turn lane display is no longer the same indication as the adjacent through lanes.

Iwuchukwu said the signals will first be installed at the Collins Street and Sublett Road intersection and move northward to intersections where there are separate left-turn-arrow signals. At those intersections, drivers will see one of the following indications as they approach a signal with a flashing yellow left-turn arrow display:

  • Steady Red Arrow, where drivers turning left must stop and wait.
  • Steady Yellow Arrow, where drivers are warned the left-turn signal is about to turn red. (Do not enter the intersection if you can stop safely. Vehicles in the intersection should complete their turn.)
  • Flashing Yellow Arrow, which means drivers are allowed to turn left after yielding to oncoming traffic and pedestrians.
  • Steady Green Arrow, which says proceed with a left turn. (Drivers making a left turn have the right-of-way. This sequence may be skipped if no left-turning vehicles are detected by the signal system.)

To get the word out, flyers have been placed with December water bills. Residents will also notice handouts located in schools, libraries, and in other public facilities.

"We are also meeting with our Arlington Police Department partners for education and other strategies regarding enforcement," Iwuchukwu said

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