A new traffic light signal is coming to South Carolina intersections — the blinking yellow left-turn arrow.
What does it mean?
That it’s OK to turn left after yielding to oncoming traffic and pedestrians, said Carol Jones, state Department of Transportation traffic signal and systems engineer.
The new sequence of lights governing a left turn will be green, blinking yellow, yellow and red. Solid yellow means to stop if it is safe to do so because the left-turn signal is about to turn red, officials said.The new left-turn signal lights are in a vertical row separate from the lights governing other traffic. Under an old design, left-turn lights and through-traffic signals are clustered together in an arrangement called a “doghouse,” which has more potential for driver confusion, officials said.
The first left-turn signal to include the flashing yellow arrow will be installed Wednesday in Richland County. Some 15 of the new left-turn signals will be up and running in the coming year.
Locations have not been determined.
Brent Dillon, state traffic design engineer, said some intersections on U.S. Highway 17 in Charleston County would be candidates for the left-turn signals with the flashing yellow arrow.
He likened the situation to improvements in pedestrian crosswalk signals that tell people how many seconds they have to reach the other side of the road.
“It just clarifies the message,” he said.
Jones said the flashing yellow arrow system provides a clearer cue on what to do when it comes to left turns.
“So many times as you’re getting further out in the intersection waiting to turn, you have to look far to the right to see what the signal light is doing. Having this type of signal head (row of lights) in your left turn lane will give you better visibility on what to do and at what point,” she said.
A North Carolina study found that the left-turn signal system using the flashing yellow arrow led to significant reductions in crashes, in some cases more than 50 percent.