Ask NOW: Flashing yellow turn arrows becoming more widely used statewide

April 16, 2013

Why are flashing yellow arrows in use, and what do they mean?

Issue: Carole Panaro knows to go on green and stop on red, but it's the flashing yellow arrow that's got her scratching her head.

"I don't know why they have that stupid, yellow-blinking light, it looks like some kind of emergency," she said. "It's irritating, I do a double take and I think something unusual is happening."

Status: Dave Brantner, signal operations engineer for the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, said Panaro and other Brookfield residents should get used to it.

"You're going to see a lot more of it. They're starting to go throughout the state," he said.

Here in Brookfield, the new arrow system is prominently used along Capitol Drive, and was first implemented on the state highway after the extensive resurfacing project. Brantner said it has been used on Bluemound Road for about a year now.

As usual, red means stop. A green arrow means a driver has the right of way to make a left turn. A solid yellow arrow means prepare to stop, while a flashing yellow arrow means a driver may make a left turn if there is no oncoming traffic.

According to the state DOT website, a decade-long national study by the Federal Highway Administration found drivers had fewer crashes when the flashing yellow arrow was in use.

The new signal also provides more options for controlling traffic based on variable traffic volumes since the timing sequence can be made to vary throughout the day, the site states.

So it seems it's time for Panaro and other residents to wean off green, and say hello to yellow.

Brookfield NOW .com

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