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Good Question: What’s With The Yellow Arrow Turn Signal?

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(credit: CBS) John Lauritsen
John Lauritsen is a reporter from Montevideo, Minn. He joined WCCO-...
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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – We’ve all been there.

You’re in a hurry and you’re practically begging that turn signal to change from red to green. Now, you may find yourself with a new option: the flashing yellow left turn signal.

That signal was recently installed at Highway 65 and Bunker Lake Boulevard in Ham Lake, and it’s one of 130 now in the state.

Minnesota put up the first flashing yellow arrow in in 2006. It was a pilot test, according to Jerry Kotzenmacher of MNDoT.

The flashing yellow arrow is a new option for drivers, Kotzenmacher said. Instead of waiting at a red arrow while traffic is green in the lane you are trying to turn across, the flashing yellow arrow gives you the go-ahead — just as long as it’s safe to turn.

“You are waiting for a lull in traffic and pedestrians, and when it is clear you have a right to turn left,” Kotzenmacher said.

But you may not see the yellow arrows all the time. It will appear when traffic volume is low, so don’t look for it during rush hour. And it’s expensive to install, so not all intersections will have it.

“The price can be high where it doesn’t make it worth it to put them in,” Kotzenmacher said.

But some drivers can expect to start seeing more yellow.

“I like it very much. I think it will keep the traffic flow going,” said one driver in Ham Lake.

All new traffic signals MNDoT installs going forward will have a flashing yellow arrow option, Kotzenmacher said.

He said it is yellow and not green, because yellow means caution and green could mislead drivers into thinking they can turn without worrying about oncoming traffic. The flashing yellow arrow, he said, will ultimately be safer.

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