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
      We already have something like this. If its a solid green, left turn drivers must yield. Left turn drivers are only protected when its an actual green arrow. Why spend money to install something else that means the same thing?
      drussin716
      • 2 Years Ago
      Drivers have too much to think about now. They are setting their ipods, sending text messages to their friends and updating their facebook pages and now drivers have think about left turn lights. Its really to compicated.
      lcplfrank
      • 2 Years Ago
      what the h311 do we need a flashing yellow arrow for? I guess do DOT has to much money to spend.
      JE WA ZA WI
      • 2 Years Ago
      If you don't understand road signs,stay off the road with your vehicle till you do understand .Many drivers don't know what a red light means ;what a speed limit sign is,or to buckle up their children,let alone themselves ..
      Frank
      • 2 Years Ago
      For years, a solid Red Light meant stop and wait for Green, A FLASHING RED LIGHT meant stop and go when it was safe to do so. A YELLOW LIGHT HAS ALWAYS MEANT CAUTION. regardles of it being a solid yellow or a flashing yellow, it has always meant CAUTION. If drivers can't put that together, If they are confused, then maybe they should walk or take the bus, because they are incompetent.
      georgessc
      • 2 Years Ago
      Something Obama came up with.
      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....
      • 2 Years Ago
      I've run across these in a couple of places where I live (in WI) and at first they were a little confusing, but still pretty much self explanatory. I would rather see lights then for the DOT to keep building Roundabouts. More people either misuse, or abuse (don't use correctly) Roundabouts than lights.
      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.
      Paula
      • 2 Years Ago
      more wasted money
      • 2 Years Ago
      In Michigan the yellow light may or may not turn green at the end when the cross traffic goes red. The emphasis is on may or may not. In my home town of Midland there are lights at both sides of an overpass. One turns green as the main light turns red, the other doesn't.
      onemadashell
      • 2 Years Ago
      are people that stupid? if so then they need to have there driving privileges revoked.
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