The Virginia Department of Transportation plans to activate a new type of traffic signal with a flashing yellow arrow at two locations on Southgate Drive on Virginia Tech's campus.  

Weather permitting, beginning on Monday, Sept. 20, a new flashing yellow arrow signal will be installed to control traffic turning left from Southgate Drive onto Spring Street and Tech Center Drive. Upon completion of the work at this intersection, another flashing yellow arrow signal will be activated for traffic turning left from Southgate Drive onto Duck Pond Drive. VDOT will install temporary signs to alert drivers to these changes.

The new signals display four arrows to regulate traffic flow: a red arrow to tell drivers to stop; a steady yellow light to communicate that the light is changing, so drivers should be cautious in making a left turn; a flashing yellow which means drivers may turn left after yielding to oncoming traffic; and a green arrow to show that the driver has the right of way to make a left turn.

The new flashing yellow arrow will be used instead of the more commonly used solid circular green light to communicate a permissive left turn to drivers.  Engineers use the term “permissive left turn” to describe the traffic movement where drivers should yield to oncoming traffic and pedestrians and only make left turns when oncoming traffic is clear.  Pedestrians should use the crosswalks and push buttons at these signals.  Drivers should pay particular attention to pedestrians and yield to them when making a permissive left turn.

Flashing yellow arrows are more effective than the more common circular green light and other signals at conveying to drivers the need to yield before turning left at permissive turns. Studies have shown that after a short learning period flashing yellow signals are better understood, better obeyed and are safer. A flashing yellow arrow is more intuitive than a solid green light to communicate a permissive left turn to drivers.

Engineers across the country have recently begun installing flashing yellow signals with nearly half of all states now having at least one.  In June, VDOT first used a flashing yellow arrow signal when three were activated on Route 60 in James City County at the entrance to Busch Gardens.  View a video of these flashing yellow arrow signals in use. 

In August, VDOT activated the first flashing yellow arrow signal in southwest Virginia at the intersection of Route 800 (Chaparral Drive) and Route 687 (Penn Forest Boulevard) in Roanoke County.  VDOT plans to expand use of the flashing yellow arrow signals in the future.

Dedicated to its motto, Ut Prosim (That I May Serve), Virginia Tech takes a hands-on, engaging approach to education, preparing scholars to be leaders in their fields and communities. As the commonwealth’s most comprehensive university and its leading research institution, Virginia Tech offers 240 undergraduate and graduate degree programs to more than 31,000 students and manages a research portfolio of $513 million. The university fulfills its land-grant mission of transforming knowledge to practice through technological leadership and by fueling economic growth and job creation locally, regionally, and across Virginia.


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