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Flashing Yellow Left Turn Arrows

Left-turn flashing yellow arrow indications have been utilized throughout California and the United States to improve traffic flow at signalized intersections. This signal phasing provides more efficient left-turn movements by providing more opportunities for vehicles to pass through the intersection. In addition to the already allotted protected green left-turn arrow, the flashing yellow arrow permits motorists to make left-turns after yielding to oncoming traffic, bicyclists and pedestrians, and proceeding when safe to make the turn.

Flashing yellow arrow traffic signal heads feature a flashing yellow arrow in addition to the standard red, yellow and green arrows. When active, the flashing yellow arrow allows motorists to make a left turn after yielding to oncoming traffic. This is called a permissive left-turn. A permissive left-turn requires the driver to make a judgement of whether it’s safe to complete the left-turn movement, similar to making a left turn into a driveway or from a two-way-left-turn-lane. When the flashing yellow arrow is not active, the traffic signal works the same as traditional signals, which require the driver to follow the normal rules for the red, yellow (steady), and green arrow lights. Below are descriptions and guidance regarding the various signal indications:

  • Red Light

    Steady Red Arrow

    Stop; Stop at stop line or before entering the crosswalk if there is no stop line.

  • Yellow Light

    Steady Yellow Arrow

    Caution, stop if you can do so safely, or cross the intersection cautiously if you cannot; A flashing yellow arrow or steady red arrow will follow.

  • Flashing Yellow Light

    Flashing Yellow Arrow

    Yield to on-coming traffic, bicyclists and pedestrians, and then proceed with caution when safe; This is a permissive phase and the opposing through movement has a green indication. A steady yellow arrow will follow.

  • Green Light

    Steady Green Arrow

    Proceed with left-turn; This is a protected phase and conflicting movements have a red indication. A steady yellow arrow will follow.

In June 2020, traffic signals at three City of Elk Grove intersections will be modified to included left-turn flashing yellow arrows. The intersection locations of this pilot project are:

Flashing yellow arrowFor additional awareness of signals with flashing yellow arrows, the new signal heads installed with this pilot project include reflective yellow borders and supplemental signs

Flashing yellow arrows are identified in the City’s Traffic Congestion Management Plan (TCMP) that was introduced to the City Council in April 2019. The implementation of flashing yellow arrows will reduce delay, saving motorists time and reducing emissions. Flashing yellow arrow signals have been shown to reduce emissions up to 12% and delays by up to 50%.

For questions regarding the Left-Turn Flashing Yellow Arrows Pilot Project you can call the City of Elk Grove Public Works Department at (916) 478-2256.

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