The flashing yellow arrow is starting to appear next to solid green “ball” lights as an extra reminder to drivers turning left to use caution. Photo by Freda Miklin
BY FREDA MIKLIN
Drivers in our area have been noticing something new as they wait to turn left at some intersections–flashing yellow left turn arrows, especially at intersections with newer traffic signals. According to Arapahoe County, a flashing yellow arrow means “left turns are permitted, but you must first yield to oncoming traffic and pedestrians, then proceed with caution. The flashing yellow arrow does not replace the solid yellow arrow and its meaning. However, it does replace the (lone) green “ball” indication as a signal for a yielding left turn.”
When the available time for the flashing yellow arrow ends, the solid yellow left-turn arrow begins, telling drivers the left turn signal is about to go to red and they should be prepared to stop, or complete their left turn as soon as it is safe to do so, if they are out in the intersection.
Two locations in our area where these lights can be seen are Broncos Parkway and Potomac Street in the east and Belleview Avenue at Holly Street in the west.
Experienced drivers will recognize that that is not a new rule for making a safe left turn, but traffic engineers determined more than a decade ago that using a flashing yellow arrow to alert drivers to turn left with caution is preferable to a solid green light. A memorandum issued by the Federal Highway Administration, going back to 2006, says, “Flashing yellow arrow was found to have a high level of understanding and correct response by left-turn drivers, and a lower critical-fail rate than the circular green.”
What is surprising to many drivers is that a flashing yellow arrow next to a solid red “ball” light (rather than a green one), though not seen frequently, means a left turn after yielding to oncoming traffic and pedestrians is also permitted, according to Jeremy Hanak, public works director at Greenwood Village.
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