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Thursday, September 27, 2012

Flashing Yellow Arrows Confuse Drivers

Transportation officials are installing new traffic lights nationwide that include a new feature they say will simplify left turns for drivers: flashing yellow arrows. But rather than have their intended effects, there are already reports the lights are creating confusion among drivers.

How exactly should drivers proceed at a blinking yellow arrow?

"Be cautious," says an informational video prepared by the Michigan Department of Transportation.

"The flashing yellow arrow does not replace the solid yellow arrow and it's (sic) meaning," states a brochure produced by the city of Littleton, Collorado. "Drivers should always remember: a flashing yellow = turn with caution."

Still confused? You're not alone. Across the country, there has been confusion surrounding the meaning of the flashing yellow arrows, which were approved by the Federal Highway Administration in 2006, and gradually installed in more recent years.

According to the FHA, here's what drivers need to know: At a solid yellow left-turn arrow, drivers still have the right of way, but the light is about to turn red. At a flashing yellow left-turn arrow, drivers may still turn left, but they must yield to oncoming traffic and pedestrians. Not everyone is aware of the difference.

In Portland, Oregon, there are reportsof confusion among transportation officials, who have differing interpretations of the laws that govern the new flashing yellow arrows. A lawyer says examiners with the state's motor vehicles department enforce the law on driver's tests with varying interpretations.

In Tyler, Texas, authorities investigated the role of a flashing yellow arrow in an accident in which a motorist failed to yield to a motorcycle
that had the right of way. A man on the motorcycle died in the accident.

Last month in Michigan, a county executive was injured after another driver failed to yield at a flashing yellow arrow. Following the investigation, Craig Bryson, a spokesperson for the Road Commission for Oakland County, told a local Patch news outlet, "Like anything new, there may be a learning curve."

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