NK driver finds flashing yellow left signals a hazard

The in basket: Bruce Wilcox of Poulsbo is among those who find Kitsap County’s innovative yellow, blinking left-turn signals to be an accident hazard.

He feels they have “confused a lot of drivers into thinking that they have the right of way when approaching the

intersection,” he said. He said passing through those intersections is “somewhat like playing Russian roulette.

“I have had three incidents going though my green light where some other driver came

though the blinking yellow and I had to brake for them,” Bruce said. “If I took it for granted and just went though the green light like most people do, I would have hit them.”

Though mostly he encounters them in Silverdale, he adds, “I have seen these in other cities and it might be statewide. Whose idea was

this and did anyone properly inform drivers of the rules regarding (them)?”

“I feel this blinking yellow light is an accident waiting to

happen,” he said, adding, ” Are people really that much in a hurry to endanger their lives or others’?”

The out basket: I didn’t give Bruce a lot of comfort, as I am among what appears to be the majority who love the flashing yellows.

There are three of them within a mile of my house near Manchester in South Kitsap and have never had or seen a close call at any of them.

North Kitsapers like Bruce have less chance to familiarize themselves with the yellow flashing lefts, though he sounds like he understands them but encounters other drivers who don’t.

Around here, only Kitsap County is using them on its roads, and it has none north of the Trigger Avenue-Old Frontier Road intersection almost in Silverdale. Therre are many in Silverdale and SK

For the record, the yellow flashing left-turn lights mean the same thing as a green ball light with a sign next to it saying left turners must yield to oncoming traffic on green. It means you don’t have to wait to turn left if no one is coming. But opposing traffic has the right of way.

The county has so much confidence in them that it has them on the two-lane left-turn from Kitsap Mall Boulevard to Randall Way in Silverdale, I notice.

I asked the county what accident statistics are showing at those intersections, compared to the past or to intersections with other left-turn signal controls. And I asked Bruce’s question – Who’s idea were they?

Jeff Shea, the county’s traffic engineer, says, “When we first started implementing this technology, I asked the sheriff’s department to let me know when they get collisions attributable to the flashing yellow arrow. We did see a few during the early implementation of the yellow arrows, some intersections more than others.

“As motorists begin to get used to the signals, there have been fewer and fewer.  But, we still do get the occasional collision because of a motorist misunderstanding the signal indication.  We monitor accidents throughout the county and when locations show collision rates above a county average, we evaluate it to identify causes and determine if there are measures to reduce those collisions.

But they haven’t “had the yellow flashing arrows in long enough to really evaluate them on a county average basis,” he said. “We are simply monitoring the yellow flashing arrow collisions with the assistance of the sheriff’s department.  We are actually hoping we might even see some reduction in collisions due to the reduction in congestion.”

As for whose idea it was, Jeff said, “I don’t remember who actually said, ‘Let’s do it,’  but it was a collaborative effort.  Something to the effect of, ‘We have this new technology we can use that is being approved by (federal authorities) and studies are showing that motorists like and understand it.'”

“We also are getting many complaints from the public about having to wait to turn left at a green through-signal with no opposing traffic.  Also, traffic volumes are growing, leading to more congestion at signals.  With the congestion comes more waiting, which leads to driver frustration, more fuel usage and pollution generation.

“This technology helps us manage some of these problems by reducing red time when motorists are stopped and waiting.”

8 thoughts on “NK driver finds flashing yellow left signals a hazard

  1. I agree with Bruce and I have experienced the same near accidents in Silverdale. Half of the people around here don’t know what a stop sign or red light means. How do you expect them to figure out the meaning of a flashing yellow signal? Worst drivers in the country, right here in Kitsap.

  2. The flashing yellow left signals are great improvements to help ease growing congestion at intersections…especially in crowded Silverdale. If you can legally navigate your way through a normal left turn then you can handle the flashing yellow left signal. Just remember that when the flashing stops and the signal goes steady yellow — it means the light is about to change to RED and you should be thinking of stopping not stomping on the gas. A major contributor to intersection collisions is speeding drivers and drivers who don’t obey the signals.

  3. Arnie, I think you are spot on… I think the near accidents are caused by those same people who would put themselves in the middle of an intersection to block, so they won’t “get caught” behind a red light. One day they will get a ticket, and cry about why the police aren’t pursuing REAL criminal.

  4. So true! I have been on both side of that fence. I have almost gotten hit and almost went without yielding. I definately agree!

  5. I like the flashing yellow lights, but approach them with the same caution that I do any other traffic signal. Around here, I feel that traffic lights are not enforced well. The intersection of Silverdale Way and Bucklin Hill road is right around the corner from a Sheriff’s station and yet people flagrantly disregard the signal there all the time. I’ve seen people literally blow through a red light (can’t use the excuse that it changed as they were going through).

    It’s unfortunate that people are in such a hurry to get somewhere that they feel they are above the rules. That’s why I don’t get too bothered by traffic cameras. If we can’t be responsible enough to follow the rules, then someone needs to force us to think about it.

  6. I think that drivers who find the blinking yellow traffic lights too difficult to figure out should stick to public transportation or walking.

    It’s simple: yellow/caution+ arrow/left turn = make left turn with caution.

    This is not brain surgery, people.

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