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Will flashing yellow lights reduce left-turn crashes in Texas?

A lot of motor vehicle accidents happen when a driver attempts to make a left-hand turn and fails to yield to oncoming traffic. According to the Texas Department of Transportation, one of the reasons left turns are hazardous is the variety of different traffic signals that govern left turns around the country. According to TxDOT, many drivers apparently do not realize that a steady "yield on green" signal does not protect them from oncoming traffic.

In an effort to reduce the number of left-turn car accidents, TxDOT is gradually phasing in new flashing yellow arrow lights. Research has shown that drivers find these easier to understand than the old "yield on green" signals. Under the new system, a steady red arrow means stop; a steady yellow arrow means prepare to stop; and a flashing yellow arrow means left turns are permitted but drivers must yield to oncoming traffic. A steady green arrow means a left turn is permitted and protected; oncoming traffic has a red light.

Of course, it remains every driver's responsibility to understand and obey traffic signals. If a driver fails to yield while turning left on green, claiming they were confused by the signal will not help them avoid criminal or civil liability. It is also every driver's responsibility to be attentive to their surroundings and aware of the presence of oncoming traffic.

When a person is injured by a negligent driver who failed to yield the right of way, they can incur significant medical expenses and lose income because they are unable to work. The law holds the negligent driver responsible for these economic losses, as well as for non-economic losses like pain, suffering and emotional distress.

Source: Texas Department of Transportation, "Flashing Yellow Lights," accessed Aug. 17, 2015

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