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New Flashing Arrows Promote Efficiency, Safety

Sedalia motorists have probably noticed the yellow flashing arrows at four intersections on Highway 50 this past week.

Randy Kirby
Randy Kirby

The signs accompanying the flashing yellow directional lights, installed March 9 by Gerstner Electric (Fenton, Mo.),  tell drivers to “Left turn yield on flashing arrow.” Quite simple, really. Always yield to oncoming traffic before turning left.

And there are more such signs and lights coming to Sedalia, according to Public Works Director Brenda Ardrey.

Traffic studies have shown that the new yellow arrows “allow drivers to proceed once it’s safe, and it saves fuel, saves time,” she said. “So most people generally like the flashing yellow, instead of having to sit through a steady red. It’s kind of like a yield sign. It’s a safety measure.”

Although there is a budget constraint at the state level, more signs from MoDOT will be coming as money becomes available, she explained.

MoDOT Traffic Operations Engineer Greg Owens said the new signal lights improve safety and reduce traffic delays. “With the new flashing left-turn arrow, drivers can make a left turn when this light is on, when it is safe to do so,” he said. “This essentially gives drivers two ‘chances’ to make it through the signal, resulting in less wait time at the intersection.”

A flashing yellow arrow means left turns are permitted, but you must first yield to oncoming traffic and pedestrians and then proceed with caution.

The flashing yellow arrow does not replace the solid yellow arrow and its meaning; it does replace the green “ball” indication as a signal for a yielding left turn.

So drivers should always remember: a flashing yellow equals “turn with caution.”

The flashing yellow left-turn arrow is especially effective at intersections with high volumes of traffic, MoDOT said.

According to Rich Shipley, MoDOT area engineer for the KC District (rural Lafayette, Saline, Pettis & Johnson counties), “We’re slowly switching over to this configuration. As funds become available, we will do the remaining signals on US 50 and those on US 65. We will also be doing a connectivity project in Sedalia this year to link data and control of the signals on US 50 east of US 65 and on US 65 from US 50 to Tiger Pride Road,” he said.

“This will allow us to monitor traffic flow and make adjustments from our District Office in Lee’s Summit rather than sending out personnel from there,” Shipley concluded.

The Federal Highway Administration approved the use of flashing yellow arrow in the FHS’s Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices.

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