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, Colorado. "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 reports of 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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  • 489 Comments
      • 2 Years Ago
      Once again Washington reinventing the wheel. Your tax dollars hard at work.
      • 2 Years Ago
      We have those in Washington State and are a matter fact. Very easy to follow. There have been no accidents that I am aware of. Just be cautious. That's what amber means!
      mjvenice
      • 2 Years Ago
      This is an instance of someone getting too cute. Simple is better.
      mjvenice
      • 2 Years Ago
      This is an instance of someone getting too cute. Simple is better.
      leejustus3
      • 2 Years Ago
      Mo Money, Mo Money, Mo Money..........
      • 2 Years Ago
      Our country is broke as it is and this is what they are worried about. How much do you wanna bet these are made in China?
      • 2 Years Ago
      The reason for the confusion is because of the damn RED LIGHT CAMERAS! Thanks to those cameras, EVERYONE slams on the brakes as soon as they see ANYTHING that is yellow!!!
      jmjnewbold
      • 2 Years Ago
      This is a smart idea but with the tons of idiot drivers no wonder there is confusion! Most military bases have light like this and it keep traffic down!
      bdgrizcp
      • 2 Years Ago
      In south Florida we don't have these yet. People here are generally unaware of what a red light means. A yellow signal means: go like hell! A yellow light turning red means: go even faster! Curiously, I have seen people slow down on a green light. Not a lot of smart people down here.
      tjalimo
      • 2 Years Ago
      Yeah.............. I'm sure this change will be worth the millions and millions of dollars it will take to make the change. Seems to me like we founf an agency that can be cut out of the budget going forward....
      alacranxxx
      • 2 Years Ago
      These are ridiculous. When a driver sees a yellow light, it means proceed with caution. When he sees a green arrow it means his turn is protected, and when the arrow turns yellow, it means that his turn is still protected but the light is about to turn red. A flashing yellow light is just going to trick people into believing that their turn is still protected, even if it's flashing. This is the product of some bureacrat/traffic engineer who had to dream up something he could put on his resume, just so he could say he did it.
      Evan
      • 2 Years Ago
      I think they should add a flashing pink arrow too...this one means you have to be cautious because the flashing yellow is about to turn to red. Give me a break, flashing yellow is NO DIFFERENT that a solid green light (not arrow) and you want to turn left...you still have to yield and be cautious. Good use of tax money!
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