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TODAY'S QUESTION: Will flashing yellow left-turn signals improve traffic?

Saturday, June 5, 2010 | 2:16 p.m. CDT; updated 2:23 p.m. CDT, Saturday, June 5, 2010

COLUMBIA — Flashing yellow left-turn signals have been popping up around Columbia for the past few months.

The new signals have been installed at 14 intersections, replacing the traditional green left-turn signals. The Missouri Department of Transportation made the decision to install the new signals after a national study found green turn lights were often responsible for car crashes. Results from the study showed that the flashing yellow arrow indicating a left turn was easier for drivers to understand, according to MoDOT traffic engineers.

The new signals were first introduced in St. Louis. After conducting a study of its own to measure driver comprehension of the new signals, MoDOT released its findings in June 2008. According to a Missourian article, results showed that more than half of respondents answered correctly when prompted what to do if approaching the new signal.

Now that the new signals have reached the streets of Columbia, some drivers say they're happy about their installation. This sentiment seems to mirror the public response many other cities are receiving. Traffic engineer Rust Thompson in Fayetteville, N.C., said his city has already installed 20 signals and plans on putting in 20 more after receiving positive public feedback.

According to Jason Sommerer, senior traffic studies specialist at MoDOT, the new lights should benefit drivers turning left by allowing them more time to turn and also by indicating who has the right of way.

Will flashing yellow left-turn signals improve traffic? Why or why not?


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