Give Us Some Blinking Directions!

From a GUARDIAN reader…

How many people has the blinking arrow injured/killed? They have signs to explain left turn must yield on steady green but no such sign explaining to yield on flashing yellow. We do have a problem with bad drivers and careless drivers to be sure, but this stupid flashing yellows are misread or miss understood by far too many people. I’ve even had a road-rager from Cali think he had right of way and other side was running a light.

Having driven all over this great USA, we can tell you the blinking yellow arrows are everywhere, bike lanes are squeezing traffic, round abouts are in all NEW developments, and there are so many special lines it is easier to navigate a game board than drive.

Comments & Discussion

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  1. It doesn’t require a PhD to decode the mystery of the left turn blinking yellow signals. But it may be beyond the comprehension of the typical motorist. Please include in any educational program for motorists the use of right turn merge lanes and proper left turns. Gee wouldn’t that info be included in the Drivers Handbook? Well, look here quoting from the manual page 3-6 (available at “Flashing Yellow Arrow: The flashing yellow arrow means turns are
    allowed after yielding to oncoming traffic and pedestrians in crosswalks.” What is so difficult about that?
    In essence it is not about interpreting the meaning of the signal but more the drivers’ attitude and focus.

  2. Oh my goodness!

    I haven’t driven “all over this great USA,” but in the places I have driven, there’s a couple things I depend on… green light means “go,” red light means “stop,” and yellow light means “caution/yield.”

    If “the blinking yellow arrows are everywhere,” as reported by Guardian reader, the person operating the vehicle should be somewhat familiar with the signal and its meaning.

    Operating a 4000-pound steel missile is a significant responsibility! I see far too many of those operators treating it as if it’s an unpleasant distraction from whatever their attention is really focused on (tight schedule, passenger, “smart phone,” dash-mounted entertainment, etc.). They are indeed placing themselves – and other roadway users – at risk of injury or death.

    Some people probably can’t handle the responsibility. The 90-year-old mother-in-law was quite angry when her kids took away her car keys, but it was the right thing to do. If Guardian readers can’t handle it, please give it up!

    My 2 cents.

  3. Yeah, keepin’ up with all these new-fangled traffic ideas is a challenge for us old guys. But blinkin’ yellow (“amber” for the cognoscenti) always meant “proceed with CAUTION” in my book.

    Maybe time to hang up the keys ‘n call for a Lyft,…if I could jus’ figger out how to dial this damn “smart”fone.

  4. Rod in SE Boise
    Dec 6, 2017, 11:32 am

    Agree. The yellow flashing left turn arrows are the worst idea since – forever.

  5. Mark Thompson
    Dec 6, 2017, 1:01 pm

    I don’t think we need written directions on the traffic lights as we just make sure that it becomes common knowledge what it is. We don’t have a sign saying to stop on red or to go on green, everyone just knows. Too many signs makes things more confusing.

    I personally like the flashing yellow, they allow traffic to move in a way that speeds things up for everyone by eliminating unneccessary green arrows which stop straight traffic going the opposite direction.

    Only change I would make is to have both regular greens go with flashing yellow left arrows first, then only have the green arrows at the end of the light if there are still cars left over at the end of the light.

  6. Idahocrystal
    Dec 6, 2017, 1:18 pm

    I feel like this person could use a Drivers Ed refresher. (And maybe we should all have one every 10-20 years…?)

    “They have signs to explain left turn must yield on steady green but no such sign explaining to yield on flashing yellow.”

    ID Drivers Manual: “Steady Green Arrow: A green steady arrow means Go. You may pass through the intersection in the direction the arrow is pointing. Oncoming traffic is required to stop. You should not enter the intersection unless there is sufficient space on the other side of the intersection for your vehicle to completely pass through so you are not blocking the intersection, regardless
    of a traffic control signal to proceed.”
    “The flashing yellow arrow means turns are allowed after yielding to oncoming traffic and pedestrians in crosswalks.”

  7. Thank you all for making my point so well
    Dec 6, 2017, 9:42 pm

    I was the contributor. My other car is the Space Shuttle. I know full well how to drive and understand the rules. The editor added a few lines making me look like a tool ;0) He’s the guy driving all over the USA. I fly over most of it. I agree with him though. They’ve made the roads way too busy with all the special paint and signs. Anything to keep the men in tights happy, right?

    Crystal. “Left turn must yield to oncoming traffic” on green meatball. Left on green meatball caused too many crashes. The yellow flashing arrow replaced the steady green meatball for yielding left turns but does not seem to have reduced the crash rates as intended. AND we have all witnesses several stupid people not have a clue what it means.

    BikeBatMan is correct. Distracted dopes are the problem, but they are an insurmountable reality.

  8. Bieter Begone
    Dec 7, 2017, 6:48 am

    If distracted dopes are the insurmountable reality for you Thank You, then stop driving. The blinking yellow left is a great tool for drivers.

  9. Concerned Neighbor
    Dec 7, 2017, 8:15 am

    The old “stop on go – green turn” was replaced by the “yield then go” blinky yellow turn light. That has drastically reduced collisions. Most people understand it because it fits in with driving fundamentals that have been around almost as long as cars.

    To bad they are trying to replace it with “yellow background so you can’t see the actual light”. Maybe they are trying to get people to notice the lights to begin with? That’s the case back east with curvy roads but not west with straight roads.

    “To many new lines” does carry some weight because Boise is notorious for not having signs soon enough for motorists to get into the correct lane. However, they are designed for typical traffic flow so after a week of driving it you should know where to go.

    Roundabouts are bad. Pretty, but horribly bad. It becomes a free for all that quickly locks up under any real traffic load.

    Distracted drivers? That won’t end until police start enforcing laws again. Peer pressure won’t do it unless you’re in the car with them. And while they are at that… since the police won’t enforce traffic laws, its time we get intersection red light and speed cameras. Most people slow down after a warning, and the rest slow down after a ticket (or enough tickets to lose their license).

  10. The American Dream
    Dec 7, 2017, 2:26 pm

    “If you find yourself crossing the road in the German town of Bohmte, look both ways – and then perhaps check again.

    It has scrapped all its traffic lights and road signs in a radical experiment designed to make the streets safer. Yesterday, the local council said the scheme was a complete success…”

  11. Quotes from the article linked below:

    “Yellow lights, as symbols, have never meant: “You can go but you don’t have the right of way”.”

    “Before the new lights went up at 121 and 56, police worked about an accident a month there. Now that the flashing yellow arrows are in operation, accidents have quadrupled — averaging four accidents a month.”

    “The new flashing yellow arrows are still causing confusion and leading to accidents…”

  12. From the Guardian Archives:

    Note: The ACHD press release stated, “If [IF] the new signals perform as expected, increasing safety while reducing delay,”

    How about WTH? IF?!

    Based on their rationale, the engineers already did determine it IS safer when they started changing the lights- back in 2009 and 2010.
    That’s like saying, “So IF no one dies from smoking in the first 2 years, we’ll keep selling them.”

    But then,,,, the enlighted (pun intended) people in Oregon came to a different conclusion a few years ago.

    “Oregon transportation researchers have found that the signals pose serious safety risks to pedestrians.”

    To pedestrians. Too bad! No one cares about pedestrians…

    Well if a driver moves into the intersection thinking they found ‘a hole’in oncoming traffic and then quickly realize a pedestrian is in the crosswalk blocking the left turn- the turning vehicle will come to a stop— RIGHT in front of the oncoming traffic because it was only a small ‘hole’ in traffic. Collision!
    Speed limits where these are used???

    As for our old drivers, a study in Illinois agreed “It is also recommended that when FYAs [flashing yellow arrows] are implemented, efforts be made to educate not only the driving public at large, but OLDER drivers specifically to further improve safety for drivers making left turns at signalized intersections.”

    The Illinois study showed no safety improvement for older drivers… why is that?
    If blinking yellow arrows (FYA)fit with the “driving fundamentals that have been around as long as cars” as Concerned Neighbor implies, then old people should have a better response to the new signals- they have the most ‘experience’ with the driving fundamentals.

    Remember, we have been using these for only a few years with any kind of density. Final Results?

    It doesn’t take a PhD to recognize a dangerous situation.

  13. Real people are getting injured and killed, not to mention vehicle damage and other associated costs.

    Problem #1 is ACHD does not measure success or failure by the safety of our roads. Examples are everywhere but mostly in the form of stupidly high speed limits. High collision speeds convert mistakes into deaths.

    (Eastie, that’s twice we agree this year. You’ve come a long way!)

  14. People drive too fast and tailgate too much. If everyone slowed down a little and left a little space, the whole traffic unit would move very well. Every now and then a dip $hit tries to veer in and out of traffic, and get through faster. They get to the next backlog faster, and increase the risk for accidents. Capitol and Front needs 3 left turn lanes, not two, btw.

  15. Oh oh. Wonder if ACHD will try this manuver
    Dec 9, 2017, 1:40 am

    How dare he! Those who want red light cameras are much too trusting.

  16. We have two new roundabouts where I live and it never ceases to amaze me why people stop for no good reason at the entrance to these things. Same goes for the yellow arrow; it can be clear of oncoming traffic and cars will sit waiting for the light to turn red.

    I think the answer lies in education of drivers. Be it public service spots on tv, a short video of traffic law changes when you renew your license. It ain’t that complicated but people need to know how to react at these things.

    It makes me nutty at how some drivers react to something so simple.

  17. I think it’s unfair and wrong to say that ACHD doesn’t care about safety.

  18. I would like to commend ACHD for adopting computerized traffic signals that change with traffic density, including flashing yellow left turns. Anything that contributes to traffic flow.

    Now I would like to see right turn only lanes in multi-lane intersections. Nothing more aggravating than a driver having lane options at a red light selecting the right lane to await green while cars behind want to turn right.

  19. Idaholc likes the computerized signals. Let’s apply that thought to the flashing yellow arrows.
    In one particular case I witnessed, when there is no car in the turn lane the pattern of the FYA is different (no green arrow) than when there is a car (inserts a green arrow after FTA). Okay, nice.

    So a driver may observe the intersection in Condition A and might think that is also the mode of operation in Condition B or Condition C, when they are actually turning.

    I observed my favorite FYA and noticed 3 different patterns.
    Surprise! Not all FYAs are equal.
    And not all FYA intersections are the same.

    ACHD recently sent a notice that heavy fog may interfere with the sensors. Okay. And they are testing spending THOUSANDS $$$ more to use radar sensors..
    At what point of additional cost does ‘computerized traffic control’ become nonsense?

    It would be better if ACHD spent their “computerized” efforts timing our lights (adjusting more frequently as needed) to minimize stopped traffic on primary routes (helps our air quality for one).

    So for now, do I get a green arrow, or not, in foggy morning traffic if the sensor doesn’t detect my vehicle?
    By the way, it’s FOGGY and I can’t see oncoming traffic or pedestrians very well.
    “Gun it and make that flashing light!”

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