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Archive for Tuesday, October 21, 2008

New street signals turn toward safety

David Woosley, traffic engineer for the city of Lawrence, explains how drivers should negotiate the new "flashing yellow" signals.

October 21, 2008

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New street signals turn toward safety

Getting the green light to turn left is taking on a new look here in Lawrence. Enlarge video

A new left-turn signal for traffic on Louisiana Street, turning east onto 19th Street displays a flashing yellow and then solid yellow for left turns. Signals like this are the first in Lawrence and are supposed to be easier for motorists to understand.

A new left-turn signal for traffic on Louisiana Street, turning east onto 19th Street displays a flashing yellow and then solid yellow for left turns. Signals like this are the first in Lawrence and are supposed to be easier for motorists to understand.


Changing signals

Intersections where "LEFT TURN YIELD ON GREEN" signs are set to be removed this fall, and new "flashing yellow" lights will be installed to signal when drivers can turn left across oncoming traffic:

¢ On Sixth Street, at Vermont Street.¢ On 31st Street, at entrances for Home Depot and the U.S. Post Office.

Other intersections will be considered once officials have had a chance to assess how well drivers are accepting and negotiating the intersections using the adjusted signals, said David Woosley, the city's traffic engineer.

The days of glancing at a green ball and deciding when or whether to turn across traffic soon could be coming to an end in Lawrence.

New "flashing yellow" left-turn arrows are operating in signals on Louisiana Street at 19th Street, giving drivers a new look when it comes to turning in the face of oncoming traffic.

It's a signal system that replaced the familiar "LEFT TURN YIELD ON GREEN" signs that previously accompanied the green turn arrows at that location - signs and signals that continue to guide traffic at many other intersections in town.

The signs with the green circles could be eliminated, because the functioning flashers are considered better for preparing drivers to deal with the potential dangers of turning across traffic.

"We're hoping people will be more cautious," said David Woosley, the city's traffic engineer.

Lawrence is the first community in Kansas authorized by the Federal Highway Administration to use such flashing signals. The administration started looking into the flashing signals as a possibility back in the mid-1990s, and since then has determined that they are the best alternative to the traditional signs-and-signals systems.

"Motorists responded strongly and favorably to the concept with little or no public information," the administration said, in its formal evaluation of the flashing signals. "These users ... intuitively knew what the flashing yellow signals meant."

Valerie Hudson must not have gotten the memo.

The secretary at the Lawrence Virtual School, 2145 La., drives through the intersection fairly regularly and still - two months after the flashing signals went operational - doesn't know exactly what they mean.

"I just take cues from the other drivers to determine when I'm supposed to go," Hudson said. "There have been times when I'm out there with four other people, sitting in our cars just scratching our heads wondering, what do we do now?"

That's not such a bad thing, Woosley said.

"If somebody sees it and they don't understand it, they may not make the turn," he said. "That's a lot safer than somebody seeing a green ball and thinking they have the right of way when they don't."

For the record, Woosley said, here's the sequence for the new "protected/permissive" turn signals on Louisiana at 19th:

¢ Red arrow: Stop, as always. No left turns allowed.

¢ Green arrow (solid): Go ahead and turn left. You have the right of way.

¢ Yellow arrow (solid): Prepare to stop. Oncoming traffic is about to come from the other direction.

¢ Yellow arrow (flashing): Left turns allowed, but drivers must yield to oncoming traffic.

¢ Yellow arrow (solid): Again, prepare to stop. Traffic is about to come from your left and your right.

Hudson's take: "How are drivers supposed to know that? Essentially, they're asking us to relearn our turning directions, things we've known for years. :

"There's a possibility this could cause some bigger issues."

Such cautions are part of the reason Woosley's staff hasn't installed the new signals in similar circumstances all over town, or at least not yet.

Next up will be the signal for drivers headed west on Sixth Street, at Vermont Street. Then the flashing yellow turn signals will show up for traffic heading into Home Depot or the U.S. Post Office off 31st Street.

Other signals could get the treatment once those operations - one at the northern end of town, another near the center and a third at the southern part of town - have had time to sink in.

"We want to see how it's handled," Woosley said, of the prospects for altering others throughout Lawrence. "We want to get the town used to the protective/permissive arrow."

Comments

classclown 6 years, 2 months ago

How much are all these lights costing to put in while at the same time the city is wanting us to vote to increase our taxes?

geniusmannumber1 6 years, 2 months ago

If. You are confused. By this light. You should. Not. Drive.

Mike Blur 6 years, 2 months ago

Triplegoddess, nothing in the article says you have the right of way during the first solid arrow. Let me cut and paste straight from the article.¢ Yellow arrow (solid): Prepare to stop. Oncoming traffic is about to come from the other direction.Yes, it takes an uncommon practice called "thinking' but these new lights are a huge improvement.

alm77 6 years, 2 months ago

I don't like it. I've been driving for 15 years and when you've been driving that long, your reaction to signals isn't even a conscious thought. I can understand anyone seeing an arrow and doing what we've always done on an arrow; turning left.

The_Voice_of_Reason 6 years, 2 months ago

Agreed bmwjhawk! I can't stand sitting in a left turn lane with NO one coming and legally not be able to go, wastes gas and time. I think these lights are a good idea. And again like bmwjhawk said, yellow means go if it's clear, red means stop. It's really not too complicated....

sdinges 6 years, 2 months ago

Do we have some kind of vast problem where people think a solid green light gives them the right of way on lefts?If people aren't recognizing and acting appropriately at normal light signals, then I don't see how a new light signal is going to help them. Obviously those people should really just not be driving.That said... I seriously doubt that yielding on green was enough of a problem in this city to warrant this change.

SMe 6 years, 2 months ago

Always something "new" for Lawrence. No thought about "improvement" just new!A flashing yellow light indicates "clear the intersection" not stop, not turn left (if it's clear), not go ahead and go like hell (to beat the red).bobbleheadsOh yea. Now that they've reminded me of that fiasco at 31st and Home Depot. Someone wanna tell me why a left turn (making a U-turn) on a green arrow has to yield to a vehicle making a right hand turn on RED!?!?Somebody needs to look at this using a little (not a whole lot but some) logic.

missmia 6 years, 2 months ago

I think this is a good idea. I witnessed a wreck on Friday because of this very reason. If it makes people more cautious and therefore more safe, why not give it a try.

Lenette Hamm 6 years, 2 months ago

Just another way to waste money on gadgets that don't make one whit of difference if drivers don't know the "rules" of traffic lights in the first place.......

Richard Heckler 6 years, 2 months ago

Isn't this what we should expect from million dollar intersections?

triplegoddess13 6 years, 2 months ago

So at the first flashing yellow arrow you have the right of way and at the second flashing yellow you have to yield. Now that is stupidity at it's finest. Just make one flashing or solid yellow arrow and that would help with the issue instead of giving drivers the choice of which flashing arrow they have to yield to.

Write2Know 6 years, 2 months ago

"Essentially, they're asking us to relearn our turning directions,"If you can't learn a new trick, you must be an old dog.I think these lights are a great idea.

Outsidelookingin 6 years, 2 months ago

I would recommend one of these green ball thingies be put at 31st and Louisiana.

triplegoddess13 6 years, 2 months ago

Mike-play the little video and it gets explained how the public is supposed to use this new light.

Lars Larson 6 years, 2 months ago

expensive light replaces inexpensive sign that does the job just fine

Curtis Lange 6 years, 2 months ago

"Yellow arrow (flashing): Left turns allowed, but drivers must yield to oncoming traffic."Interesting. I haven't turned left off of Louisiana while the light is flashing so I'd never really paid attention to it. I would not have guessed that is what it meant though. My interpretation was (before this story) flashing yellow meant I still had the right of way, but that it was about to turn red...kind of like the flashing guy in the crosswalk signal.

Danimal 6 years, 2 months ago

I can't decide if this is a good or bad idea, but I can tell you that the city's failure to educate the public about it before it went live will cause problems.

LakeShawnee 6 years, 2 months ago

AHHHH! These drive me crazy! Why cant we all just learn to yield at the solid green light on a left turn?

dweezil222 6 years, 2 months ago

OK, so when I saw the headline, I thought they were going to just put in the turn arrows that are at busy intersections seemingly everywhere but Lawrence. I agree that the flashing yellow arrow thing is stupid. But the turn arrows, in general, are a (relatively) cheap way to up traffic safety quite a bit. I applaud the city for thinking about the issue, but I have a feeling the flashing-arrow thing that nobody's ever seen before is going to just create more problems.

hujiko 6 years, 2 months ago

This is a horrible idea, confusing drivers to make them slow down isn't a great improvement, it just gives them a higher opportunity to look like the idiots who thought this up.

gccs14r 6 years, 2 months ago

My GF and I discussed the light last night. I've not gone through it, but she has, and she thought the flashing yellow arrow was just for emphasis, so she went in front of someone coming the other way. No collision, but that's only because the other person had slowed to turn right. The next person might not be so lucky. The City needs to put flyers in the mail that explain the new lights before someone gets killed.

Ragingbear 6 years, 2 months ago

This is stupid. We should make a group of people that file lawsuits every time our city blows it on idiotic projects like this. We will then use the money to create residential projects like improving High Speed Internet...

The_Voice_of_Reason 6 years, 2 months ago

Lake: Because that would be the simple logical thing to do... The City of Lawrence and it's residents aren't good at simple nor logical...

Chicago_82 6 years, 2 months ago

I have never heard of a traffic light being referred to as a "green ball".

bmwjhawk 6 years, 2 months ago

Eh. If it's yellow, go; if it's red, stop.Quit complaining."Big Brother" "left turn on green arrow only" lights are a drain on natural resources.

triplegoddess13 6 years, 2 months ago

Correction-change my little rant from "falshing" to "solid" before anyone has a heart attack about it.

gccs14r 6 years, 2 months ago

A flashing yellow arrow means yield to oncoming, eh? Seems to me that a solid green light has meant that for about 80 years. Why change now?

HalsteadHawk 6 years, 2 months ago

So we have money to put in fancy new traffic lights that'll confuse drivers (different rules at different intersection = Brilliant!) but we have to raise taxes in order to provide essential street maintance? Instead of more taxes, it looks like we need new administrators and councilman.

jgm 6 years, 1 month ago

BAD!! idea.... flashing yellow is used for rural intersections where the cross traffic stops and you have the right of way. It warns you that there's an intersection there, even though you don't have to yield. It shouldn't be used for something completely different here.

jgm 6 years, 1 month ago

Not just rural intersections now that i think about it...

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