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Why do left turners get a blinking yellow at some stoplights, solid green at others?

John Peaspanen
StarNews

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Q. When in the left turn lane at some stoplights, some lights show a blinking yellow, and others show a solid green when it’s OK to turn. Both lights mean the same thing, and it’s dangerous to use both. We need to change to the blinking yellow method. Can we get this changed?

A. Have no fear. Wilmington is working on it.

According to Donald Bennett, Wilmington city traffic engineer, “The reader is correct that both the circular green and the flashing yellow arrow convey the same meaning. By definition, both mean that the left turning vehicle can turn after they have yielded to all oncoming traffic and pedestrians. The circular green displayed in the 5-section ‘doghouse’ display was the standard since the 70s.”

Bennett added that, based on research in the last 20 years and technological advances, the flashing yellow arrow was adopted in 2009 as the new standard display for “combined protected plus permitted (yield) left turn movements.”

“The City, in conjunction with NCDOT, is revising these signal displays as projects occur,” said Bennett. “The first two in Wilmington (the third and fourth in the state) were done prior to the signal system upgrade. Intersections that already had the required wiring were installed with the signal system upgrade, and the remainder are being upgraded when an adjacent project allows.”

That said, say goodbye to the solid green. Future new signals will be designed with the flashing yellow as standard.

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“When in the left turn lane at some stoplights, some lights show a blinking yellow, and others show a solid green when it’s OK to turn. Both lights mean the same thing, and it’s dangerous to use both. We need to change to the blinking yellow method. Can we get this changed?”

 

Have no fear. Wilmington is working on it.

According to Donald Bennett, Wilmington City Traffic Engineer, “The reader is correct that both the circular green and the flashing yellow arrow convey the same meaning. By definition, both mean that the left turning vehicle can turn after they have yielded to all oncoming traffic and pedestrians. The circular green displayed in the 5-section ‘doghouse’ display was the standard since the 70s.”

Bennett added that, based on research in the last 20 years and technological advances, the flashing yellow arrow was adopted in 2009 as the new standard display for “combined protected plus permitted (yield) left turn movements.”

“The City, in conjunction with NCDOT, is revising these signal displays as projects occur,” said Bennett. “The first two in Wilmington (the third and fourth in the state) were done prior to the signal system upgrade. Intersections that already had the required wiring were installed with the signal system upgrade, and the remainder are being upgraded when an adjacent project allows.”

That said, say goodbye to the solid green. Future new signals will be designed with the flashing yellow as standard.

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User-contributed question by:
Charles Bolles

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