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Flashing Yellow Arrows May Improve Safety in Kansas City

Drivers making a left hand turn are required to yield to oncoming traffic. Traffic engineers have long recognized that left turns pose greater risks for accidents. In an effort to increase safety at intersections, traffic engineers are working to install new left-turn traffic signals on Missouri streets.

Traditional left-hand turn arrows signal drivers with a green arrow when it was safe to turn left into the pathway of oncoming traffic. At busy intersection these traffic signals have made it much easier for drivers to turn left. However, analysis of crash data from Missouri motor vehicle accidents has shown that when the solid green arrow turns to solid yellow it may not be enough to stop drivers from making left hand turns into oncoming traffic.

Blinking Arrow Gets Driver Attention

Unlike traditional lights, the new left-turn traffic signals will display a blinking yellow arrow to remind drivers to be cautious when making left turns. The blinking arrow is designed to draw more attention. Officials hope the blinking yellow light will be a better reminder for drivers to indicate they do not have the right of way, but must yield to oncoming traffic and pedestrians.

Installation of these new left turn traffic signals was prompted by a study conducted by the Federal Highway Administration. This study showed that drivers often do not pay attention to traffic signals when turning left. Drivers basically follow the vehicle in front of them, placing them in the pathway of oncoming traffic.

City officials are tracking the effectiveness of the new signals that are being installed in the Kansas City metro area. Initial reports seem to show a reduction in crashes. For example, one particular intersection in Lexena had seen three accidents in the last seven months prior to the installation of the flashing signal. A few months have passed since the signal was installed and there have been no accidents.

Installation of the yellow flashing turn signals is not mandatory, but optional at this point. Drivers should expect to see the new traffic signals, since Lexana, Kansas City and Lawrence have all put in the new blinking yellow arrows.

Source: Missouri Department of Transportation, "Flashing Yellow Left-Turn Arrows."

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