Driver Comprehension of Flashing Yellow Arrows


Gary Davis, Raphael Stern, Melissa Duhn, Jingru Gao

December 2023

Report no. MnDOT 2023-42

In 2009, the FHWA's Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) introduced the flashing yellow arrow (FYA) traffic signal as an alternative to circular green (CG) to indicate permitted left turns. The FYA is arguably a more intuitive indication that left turns are permitted but not protected and, in addition, the FYA signal heads can support time-of-day changes between protective and permissive left -turn phasing. In 2019, a Research Needs Statement stated that "Research is needed to examine driver comprehension of flashing yellow arrows in different light arrangements and the role of signage." Our objective in this project was to assess drivers' understanding of FYA signal indications and to see if the presence or absence of "Left Turn Yield" signs affect gap acceptance. This was accomplished by conducting an online survey of drivers regarding their understanding of FYA signals and by carrying out a field study of drivers' gap acceptance at a set of Twin Cities intersections.

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