I don't like the solid yellow left turn arrows that come with the newer flashing yellow arrows

I recently came across the issue that I am going to describe, and it seems that nobody that I’ve mentioned it to really cares or has thought it through enough even consider it an issue. There was some good discussion on here about the flashing yellow arrows years ago, so maybe someone will agree with me or at least be aware of the new hazard that the flashing yellow arrow system creates. Here is the old thread: Flashing yellow arrows - #2 by Xebadaih

I like the idea of having a separate signal to indicate that vehicles should yield to turn left. It does some things like:

  1. It helps fix the yellow or red trap problem, which I learned about. Basically, this situation arises in an intersection where the light stays green in one direction but turns red (after yellow of course) for the oncoming direction, usually so that traffic can be stopped to allow a green arrow on the oncoming side. The problem happens when a vehicle that is waiting to turn left pulls out in to the intersection on a green or yellow but doesn’t get a chance to turn. When the light turns red, they turn left expecting that the oncoming light has also turned red, but in this case it hasn’t. The driver is likely to make a dangerous left turn thinking that the oncoming traffic has a red. Having a separate left turn yield signal on the light tells the driver that they still have to yield to turn left. Seems like a good ideas except that they may have completely screwed this part up as I’ll explain.

  2. The left turn yield signal can be on while the light is red, allowing left turns to happen on a red. Previously this could only happen on a green light, so it increases the capacity of the intersection.

Here are the problems with this new system:

  1. They should have made it a flashing red arrow, not flashing yellow. If someone glances up and sees the arrow turn yellow, they may think it’s a solid arrow and they have the right of way to turn left for a couple of seconds until the arrow turns red.

  2. This is the big issue that made me start this thread. Here in my city what they have done is they have set the lights up so that the left yellow arrow flashes with a green light, which is not necessary since everyone already knows you have to yield on a green to turn left. So now you have people potentially thinking they can have the right of way to turn left if they don’t realize it’s flashing. Well that isn’t so bad because it’s hard to miss that the yellow arrow is flashing. Well here is where the situation gets bad. After the unnecessary flashing left arrow with the green light, when the traffic light turns yellow, THEY HAVE MADE IT SO THAT THE LEFT ARROW CHANGES TO SOLID YELLOW FOR THE USUAL 3 SECOND OR SO YELLOW LIGHT PERIOD. That’s right, you get a solid yellow arrow for 3 seconds but you don’t actually have the right of way to turn left. It’s telling you that the flashing left yellow cycle is coming to and end. So now there are two different meanings for a solid left yellow arrow. I almost got hit changing in to the left turn lane quickly as I saw the traffic light turn yellow and the left arrow become solid yellow. After years of driving, I have been trained that a solid yellow arrow means that I have the right of way to turn left for a couple of seconds before the red. Little did I know that the vehicle that I turned left in front of did not have a red light.

It appears that they have created a new yellow trap probleb, but perhaps I am wrong, and they have it set so that when my arrow turns to solid yellow that the oncoming traffic has a red, and the car that I had a close call with was actually running a red light. Even if it’s this way it’s still dangerous since it means that the oncoming traffic light just turned red and a lot of people run red lights. Does anyone know the answer to this? I can’t see what color the lights on the oncoming traffic side are.

edit: Looks like I’m not the only one to discover this issue, and not the only one to have a bunch of people reply with off topic comments about flashing yellow arrows which has nothing to do with the issue. https://www.reddit.com/r/raleigh/comments/re5eho/blinking_yellow_arrows_are_dangerous/

Edit2: Here is a simple example of what happens:
A driver is heading to an intersection prepared to make a left turn. He sees the green light but does not see the flashing yellow arrow or does not know what it means. Just before he enters the intersection to turn left, he notices that the yellow left turn arrow becomes solid yellow. He assumes that the arrow was previously green and that he has the right of way to make a protected left turn for a couple of seconds until the arrow turns red. He actually doesn’t have a protected left turn and turns in to traffic that has a yellow light. This results in an accident where two vehicles were passing through the intersection on a yellow
and the traffic authority is at fault.

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I’m sorry, but I just can’t read the whole issue. It takes some getting used to like right turn permitted after stop, but is very handy in less dense traffic. The only problem I have had is someone turning on a flashing yellow while I have a green light to go straight. They don’t seem to know that it is turn if no traffic rather than turn anyway.

The other thing is that the regulations are generally federal standards handed down to the states so locals really have little say in it and can’t choose their own colors. What a mess that would be.


I like @bing like less verbose reads.

Red is the new yellow, use your eyes not the lights, and have not had a problem yet waiting for oncoming traffic to stop and completing my turn while in the middle of an intersection even after the light has turned red due to oncoming traffic.

“They should have made it a flashing red arrow”

I would not have a clue what a red flashing arrow would mean. I have no problem with flashing yellow.

I am so much happier with a yellow flashing light instead of waiting at a solid red no left turn arrow when there is no oncoming traffic, knowing I could be easily ticketed if I turned on a solid red arrow.

The primary problem in my area, too few flashing yellow left turn arrows. Numerous intersections that have not had them installed.
We have a number of intersections where there is no flashing yellow, is quicker to proceed straight, then make a U-turn, than to wait for a green arrow.

A problem we have is pedestrian crosswalks where instead of getting a red light, there is a flashing amber light that means stop for pedestrians. Several deaths so far.

Just takes time for drivers to become educated. Though we have had right turn on red since the 70s, some drivers still wait for green.

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I think that could apply to most of your imaginary problems.


Sorry but I don’t get the confusion. Granted, in my area, such signals are accompanied by a sign that says, “Left turn yield on flashing arrow,” or something similar but a yellow light means “Yield” or “Proceed with caution” anyway, not “Go.” Only green means “Go.” Yellow isn’t the same thing as green, purple isn’t the same thing as green, plaid isn’t the same thing as green. Pick a color. If it’s not green, either stop or proceed with caution, which means yield if necessary. Nobody should be confused by that. Add to that, a flashing light is trying to get your attention. If a light that means “Proceed with caution” or “Yield” is trying to get your attention, maybe ask yourself “Why?” before you hit the accelerator. People who are treating a flashing yellow arrow like a green light are stupid and/or jerks and that’s not the fault of the light.


That’s where we disagree. Yellow is the same thing as green, it just means that the green is ending within 3 or 4 seconds. Nobody in the past proceeded through a yellow light with caution unless they didn’t see when it turned yellow and therefore don’t know when it’s going to turn red. Do you have any official source to back your idea of what a yellow light means?

Are you suggesting I slam on the brakes when I see a yellow light as if it were a red? I could collect a lot of insurance money I suppose.

Let’s imagine this situation. I’m turning left through an intersection and there is a solid yellow arrow. I slam on the brakes and get rear ended. The driver behind is mad and asked why I stopped. What should I say? This happens while I’m in the middle of the intersection.

How did you learn what flashing yellow meant?

Well since the yellow flashing arrow was approved in 2009 ( 13 years ago ) It has not taken that long for most of us to adapt . Maybe Snowman you should be a little more open minded.


Is that possible for him I sure hope he don’t live in my area and I have to be on the same roads with him.


Have you ever been in accident? I’m ready for a long explanation about how it wasn’t your fault. :slight_smile:

This all just boils down to you being wrong about what solid yellow light means. It means that YOUR direction’s green signal is ending. It has never meant, and never will mean, that you have right-of-way to turn left across oncoming traffic “for a couple of seconds”. People use this method all the time, because they think it’s the only way they will ever get to make their left turn. And they are successful almost all of the time. But if they were to get into a collision because of a wrong assumption that the oncoming traffic was going to stop, they will get a citation for, wait for it, FAILURE TO YIELD.

Whoever trained you that “solid left arrow means you have a couple of seconds of right-of-way for making a left turn” needs to be corrected. I suspect it was self-trained.


Basically, yes. If you are approaching an intersection and the light changes to solid yellow, and you are capable of stopping safely before the intersection, that is what you should do. Even if it is an abrupt stop. The specifics of the law are different in each state about what is allowed, but this is a simple way to paraphrase many of them.

You’re not supposed to be stopped in an intersection. You should have either
a) proceeded through the intersection, completing your turn if it had been safe to do so
b) never have entered the intersection in the first place if you would not be capable of safely completing the turn.

This is another one of those, “this is how most people do it” examples, but waiting in the middle of the intersection for a clear space to turn left is technically not allowed in many states’ rules. You’re supposed to be waiting behind the stop line until there is a clear path to go through the intersection all in one move without being stopped within the intersection.


Yellow always means proceed with caution. Not the same as green at all.

Some places are slow to adopt the new signals because-money. New traffic lights are somewhere north of $80,000 each. Municipalities are slow to replace perfectly good signal lights with the new ones unless there is a real need.


I learned it back in the late 60’s in Drivers’ Ed. It was also in a booklet for would-be motorists published by the state of Illinois, called “Rules of the Road.” Here’s some more information: Top 10 DMV Questions – Yellow Traffic Light Signals
A continuous yellow light doesn’t ever mean “Floor it!” It’s a warning that the light is about to turn red and it’s giving you a chance to stop if you can do so in time and safely. You don’t need to slam on your brakes but you do need to yield to other traffic and stop if possible. If you stop at a continuous yellow light and the driver behind you hits you, he or she is the one at fault because he or she was driving badly.
Finally, here’s a perspective some other folks might appreciate: What does a yellow light mean? - YouTube


You’re supposed to pull in to an intersection and stop before making a left turn when you’re required to yield to oncoming traffic. Is it legal to pull into the intersection when turning left?.

Everybody who’s saying to always stop before entering the intersection on a yellow is saying something ridiculous. It’s impossible to not enter an intersection on a yellow. The whole point of the yellow is so that you don’t enter the intersection on a red or clear the intersection before the red.

Traditionally if the left arrow turned yellow as you were entering an intersection, you continue to turn left and oncoming traffic has to yield to you since they have a red light. Now it’s different.

“Proceed with caution” isn’t good enough for me. I always enter with caution green or yellow. Do I have to yield to other vehicles or not. That’s the issue.

From your link:


NO! This is not true. The oncoming traffic usually has their light turning solid yellow at the same time as your yellow flashing arrow (i.e., both directions have concurrent solid yellow). Depending on their speed and distance from the intersection at the time the light turns solid yellow, THEY have the right-of-way to continue traveling straight through the intersection during their solid yellow light. Many states allow for the straight-proceeding car to be in the intersection as their light turns red and continue through the intersection during the first second-ish of their red signal.

The ONLY time you, as the left-turning vehicle, has the right-of-way is during a steady green arrow.

I assume they mean when stopped, because otherwise it is impossible to do that.

That’s the whole point of this topic. Did you read what this is about? I wish the straw man lying would stop. I clearly said traditionally it was that way, but you removed the word traditionally and the responded to a modified statement.

I think some of you are just trolling me because you all drive on a daily basis and you would know that it is impossible to not enter an intersection on a yellow light.

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Ye gods and little fishes. Disagreeing isn’t trolling!!!

And endlessly reiterating your point of view isn’t going to force anyone to agree with your interpretation of the legal rules of the road. You’re far more apt to be told to go pound sand.