My wife and 2-year-old daughter were recently in an accident at one of the new flashing yellow light intersections. I believe these new lights can increase safety and efficiency on our streets, but I have serious concerns over the current implementation.
In addition to the lack of any public awareness campaign, the programming of these lights is highly variable and, in some cases, dangerous. For example, in my wife’s accident, the flashing yellow continued while traffic in the same direction turned red but oncoming traffic still had a green.
In normal permitted left-turn scenarios, a vehicle turning left moves slightly into the intersection and, as the light turns red, completes their turn as oncoming traffic comes to a stop.
However, if oncoming traffic is not also simultaneously being stopped, a condition exists called “yellow trap,” where the turning car believes they must turn before crossing traffic gets a green light. With the current programming of the flashing yellow, there is no way for the driver waiting to complete a left turn to know whether and when they will have the opportunity to complete their turn.
I’d like to see a stronger effort in public awareness on the Green Light Lincoln campaign, specifically setting expectations around the possible behaviors and sequences being programmed at intersections with the new flashing yellow lights. And more importantly, I would like to see changes made to the programming to ensure that conditions like this “yellow trap” do not occur.
Bobby Brauer, Lincoln