Is it safe to turn left when you see a flashing yellow arrow? That's the question for drivers around Chapel Hill, as the town begins installing a signal that is unfamiliar to many drivers.
The answer is that it's legal, but it's up to the driver to make sure it's safe.
The first yellow left-turn arrow popped up a couple of weeks ago in the left-turn lane at NC 54's intersecton with Hamilton Road.
After a solid green arrow -- which means that left-turn drivers have the right of way -- a flashing yellow arrow appears.
The flashing yellow left arrow means this: It's still legal to turn left, but only after you yield right-of-way to oncoming traffic and pedestrians.
Traffic engineers have been promoting the yellow arrow to replace the solid green ball for left-turn traffic at similar intersections. Both mean the same thing for left-turners: It's legal to turn left, after you yield to pedestrians and oncoming drivers.
What's the difference? Studies at intersections, including one in front of WakeMed hospital in Raleigh, found that some left-turn drivers mistakenly thought they had the right of way when the green light was a solid ball. So they caused accidents.
The flashing arrow made them more careful, and there were fewer accidents.
We'll see how it works in Chapel Hill. The flashing yellow left-turn arrow is coming soon to other intersections, including NC 54 @ Barbee Chapel Road.
If you have questions about this, contac Kumar Neppalli, Engineering Services Manager, at 919-969-5093 or email@example.com.