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Caution: Flashing yellow left-turn arrows light up more Tampa Bay intersections

Florida motorists still getting used to flashing yellow left-turn signals, are seeing more of them at intersections throughout the Tampa Bay area. The signals have become increasingly common along major roadways, such as State Road 60 in Clearwater, Dale Mabry Highway in Tampa and State Road 54 in Pasco County. 

The flashing left-turn arrows started appearing across the United States several years ago and caught on quickly as innovative devices to improve traffic flow. The first one was installed locally at the intersection of Nebraska Avenue and Belcher Road in Palm Harbor in November 2009. 

“Since then, the use [of these signals] has been implemented at state and local intersections throughout Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco, Hernando and Citrus counties,” says Florida Department of Transportation spokesperson Kristen Carson. 

In some respects, the distinctive-looking, four-lens traffic signals generally function in much the same way as the more widely recognized three-lens traffic signals; a green arrow provides a protected left turn; a red arrow tells drivers to stop. It’s the blinking yellow arrows that sometimes confuse drivers.

The flashing yellow arrows (actually an amber color) indicates that motorists in the left-turn lane are permitted to cautiously make left turns, but they must yield to oncoming traffic. 

A solid yellow left-turn light signifies that a red light is about to illuminate and therefore motorists should prepare to stop if they have not yet proceeded into the intersection. 

The flashing yellow lights have been replacing a common five-lens traffic signal widely referred to as a “doghouse” signal. Doghouse signals, featuring a clustered arrangement of four lenses topped with a single red light, provide drivers with a green left-turn arrow for a short time; once the protected green left-turn light disappears on the doghouse signal, a solid, circular green light indicates motorists should yield to oncoming traffic before making left turns. 

“Research from the Federal Highway Administration found that the flashing yellow arrow made significant improvements to left-turn safety compared with the circular green signal,” Carson reports. 

There are currently about 90 intersections in Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco, Hernando and Citrus counties with the flashing yellow left-turn signals. More are on the way.

“The department has received positive feedback from citizens with continued requests for locations, on a case-by-case basis, to be modified with the flashing yellow arrows installed.”

Read more articles by Joshua McMorrow-Hernandez.

 Joshua McMorrow-Hernandez is a feature writer for 83 Degrees Media in the Tampa Bay region of Florida.
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