Tag Archives: yield

Right vs. left turners at flashing yellow pose a question

The in basket: Margaret Gibbard writes, “Two cars are turning onto the same road- which has the right of way – the right-on-red car or the left-on-blinking-yellow car?

The out basket: That’s an excellent question that hadn’t occurred to me. A left turner with a green light would have right of way, but the blinking yellow left turn signals require yielding to vehicles with a green light, which, of course, a right-on-red turner wouldn’t have.  I had to ask Kitsap County Sheriff’s Deputy Scott Wilson to sort it out for me.

“A left turn is one of the most dangerous movements a motorist makes,” Scott replied. “Left turn traffic signals are designed to let drivers know when to yield to oncoming traffic and when they have the right of way, but the variety of the signals that are in use can be confusing.

“The person who submitted this question asked specifically about which driver has the right of way when two cars approach from opposite sides of an intersection:  a vehicle that is turning left has a flashing yellow arrow, while the other vehicle that is turning right  has a red light.

“In this instance the car turning right has to come to a complete stop before proceeding.  It must yield to any vehicles approaching from the left as well as any vehicles approaching from the opposite direction with a green left turn arrow or a flashing yellow arrow.

“The vehicle turning left on a flashing yellow arrow has the right of way over the car that’s stopped for the red signal, intending to turn right.  The car with the flashing yellow arrow must proceed with caution and yield to any vehicles that are entering and passing through the intersection from the opposite direction.”

So I guess it depends on whether the right turner has gotten into the intersection already.

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Roundabout yield rules are the opposite of standard intersections

The in basket: Joan Dingfield asks, “Can you find out why the yield directions on roundabouts are exactly opposite of what state law states about rights-of-way?

“When cars arrive at an intersection at the same time, it is the car on the right that has the right-of-way. When approaching a roundabout, however, it is the car to your left you need to yield to.”

The out basket: As a practical matter, applying the standard right of way rule to a roundabout would create havoc in them and they’d never get built. Imagine the chaos of drivers stopping to let just one car into the roundabout, let alone a stream of them. Soon the circle would be blocked even if there were no rear-end collisions.

But a formal answer to Joan’s question comes from Brian Walsh, state  highways’ traffic design and operations manager.

“The ‘yield to the right law’ is the rule at a standard intersection where the intersection is considered an  ‘uncontrolled intersection.’ Brian said. “Many neighborhood intersections are typically uncontrolled, therefore the basic rule is for the driver to ‘yield to the vehicle approaching’ from the right when arriving at the intersection.  If an intersection has a stop or yield sign or signal on an approach, it is considered a ‘controlled intersection,”’and the placement of the traffic control defines the rules for drivers.

“Roundabouts are considered controlled intersections that have a ‘yield’ and ‘one-way’ sign on every approach. The ‘one way’ and ‘yield’ signs direct drivers to proceed to the right of the central island, and to yield to anyone already circulating in the roundabout in front of them. The signs are the determining factors, per state statute, in assigning fault in the event of a collision.”

A reader who signed only as Ben offered another possible rationalization in a comment on the Road Warrior blog at kitsapsun.com. He notes that state law regarding entering an intersection also says ““…after slowing or stopping, the driver shall yield the right-of-way to any vehicle in the intersection…” If a car in a roundabout might be considered “in the intersection,” that might cover it too.

 

Silverdale Yield sign at 3-303 raises a question

The in basket: Donald Hein e-mailed to say, “Southbound, leaving the freeway at Silverdale, at the end of the off-ramp two lanes are left-turn to East Bremerton and one lane is right-turn to Silverdale.

“More-or-less opposite the left-turning lanes at the end of the off-ramp is a traffic signal.  And, at the end of the off-ramp is a Yield sign, which can only apply to right-turning traffic.

The question is:  Does the traffic signal on the opposite side control only the left-turning lanes?  In other words, are right-turning vehicles required to stop when the signal is red, or are they controlled only by the Yield sign, and thus can proceed cautiously without making a full stop?

“This situation occurs most obviously when traffic from Silverdale is making a left turn across the front of the off-ramp, on their way to the on-ramp for the freeway northbound.

“The point is, the traffic signal is ambiguously located, and/or maybe needs a text sign added which clarifies its applicability,” Don argues.

The out basket: The Yield sign controls the right turn, and the traffic signals control only the left turns. Even without the Yield sign, right turners would be able to make a legal right turn on red after stopping and yielding. The sign was added to make it clear that stopping isn’t necessary if there is no conflicting traffic heading toward Silverdale, reducing backups of right turners.

If accidents become enough of a problem there, I would expect adding a stop sign for right turners would be the first step.

State Trooper Russ Winger says, “We do get our share of rear-end collisions here. Invariably they are caused when the lead right-turning vehicle‎ starts into the turn and then stops when they see approaching traffic from the left. The following vehicle driver assumes the lead vehicle is continuing the turn as they look to the left for traffic and they fail, in that brief moment, to observe that the lead vehicle has stopped.

“There is usually traffic stopped in the two left-turn lanes that hinders vision for the right-turning vehicle until they get into the turn a bit. Not a great design there, in my opinion.

“Myself and other troopers have investigated more than a few rear-end collisions with similar sequence of events. In my experience the‎ rear vehicle is at fault in most instances‎,” Russ concluded.

I don’t see anything ambiguous about where the traffic signals are situated. And I can’t picture wording on signs next to the signal heads that wouldn’t cause more confusion than they’d eliminate.

 

Sharkstooth bars appear at some Yield locations

The in basket: At a traffic signal and electronics conference recently, I heard the term “sharks tooth stop bar” for the first time. They aren’t really stop bars and may be known by a more official name, but I have been seeing them at a few places in our area.

They are a row of yellow triangles painted on the pavement at some conflict points, notably at the entrances to roundabouts. Their triangular shape is no accident, as it’s also the shape of a Yield sign, which has the same meaning.

I see them at Kitsap County’s Anderson Hill Road roundabout in Silverdale and the state Highway 3 northbound off-ramp in Gorst for those heading toward Highway 16, but few other places where yielding is required.

The out basket: Doug Adamson of the Olympic Region of state highways says, “Yield bars or yield lines are a relatively new addition to the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices, the federal manual that governs (our) use of highway signs and markings.

“The markings – which are the shape of an isosceles triangle – are not required under federal standards and thus are not commonly seen.  The markings indicate where a driver should stop to yield to another vehicle, bicyclist, or pedestrian, and are used at the discretion of the traffic engineer.”

 

Driver describes close call with a transit bus on 305

The in basket: J. B. Holcomb of Bainbridge Island e-mailed to described an incident on Thursday as he was driving north on Highway 305 just beyond the Agate Pass Bridge.

“I was driving at 45 mph and was two or three seconds away from a transit bus stopped at a bus stop (ostensibly),” he said.

“That yo-yo driver immediately pulls out in front of me,” J.B. said. “I had to dynamite my brakes and veer to the left to avoid collision with his bus.  I just, and I do mean just by inches, avoided a head-on collision with an on-coming driver, who, thankfully, took protection of his own in timely turning slightly right.

“I noticed that the driver snapped on the yellow ‘yield’ sign on the rear of the bus after I started braking.  I immediately laid on my horn while behind him for about two miles indicating my displeasure and stopped beside him at the next stop with my window rolled down for a few not-so-kind words.  He paid no attention to me.

“I thought about calling 911 to complain to the State Patrol about his reckless driving, but I did not, because my thought was that the ‘yield’ sign exempts that yo-yo from any such claim.

“Should I have?  Whatever the rule, he surely does not have the right to place following drivers at risk of his or her life in order to be able to pull out, even with a ‘yield’ sign on!!!”

The out basket: State law does require drivers to yield to a transit bus reentering traffic, but the bus driver must do so carefully. Transit executives also demand it as a matter of policy.

We have only J.B.’s side of the incident, as State Trooper Russ Winger noted when I asked him about the likely assignment of blame had the bus and J.B.s car collided. It probably wouldn’t have done much good to phone 911 about the close call.

But, Russ continued, “I can tell you this much. All vehicles, including transit buses, even police vehicles, must ‘safely’ enter the roadway from the shoulder, side streets etc. Signs and flashing lights do not give immunity to the driver. All drivers have that responsibility.

“If we were, in fact, investigating a collision, we would gather as much information and evidence as possible, including witness statements hopefully, to arrive at some sort of logical and factual conclusion. If these factors led us to believe that the transit vehicle did not give sufficient right of way to the other vehicle – just pulled out – (he or she) could be found at fault. We would definitely not just take one driver’s version of the event and make a decision based on that.

“As for your reader’s actions about following the bus for two miles, laying on the horn and even trying to confront the other driver, well, I believe you already know the WSP’s feeling on that type of behavior.”

If you don’t, they discourage it, and can ticket for unlawful use of the vehicle’s horn, which state law says must be used only to alert drivers of an imminent. danger, as was mentioned in a January Road Warrior column.

Transit Executive Director John Clauson asked for B.J.’s contact information so that he might inquire further into the incident.

 

Lack of stop sign at Silverdale off-ramp questioned

The in basket: Sharon Clark expressed concern a few months back about the Yield sign that controls vehicles coming off southbound Highway 3 via the off-ramp to Highway 303 north of Silverdale.

“I experienced a close call when exiting southbound to Silverdale, making a right turn at the yield sign,” she said. “Surprise — there’s no merging lane with traffic that’s fast-moving along the the far right lane.

“To make things worse, the visibility is bad. Small cars are hard to see when they’ve picked up speed from the traffic light zone, and are close to the overpass wall.  “Don’t most motorists expect there to be a merge lane, when yielding onto a four-lane road, coming off a freeway?” she asked. “Why not a stop sign instead?”

The out basket: I sent Sharon the explanation for the alignment at that location that I got from Project Engineer Brenden Clarke back in October 2007 while the interchange still was under construction. And I promised I’d ask for accident figures there since the ramp opened.

Brenden said then, “The sign there is a yield sign, not a merge sign.

“Traffic coming from southbound SR3 to 303 should not be merging,” he said. “It is either a signal-controlled or yield condition. Traffic heading toward Bremerton is controlled by the new traffic signal. Traffic heading toward Clear Creek or the Mall should be looking at the traffic signal as they approach to give them guidance as to how to proceed.

“If it is green, they obviously have the right-of-way and if it is red, they should be abiding by the Yield sign that is in place on the ramp and looking at oncoming traffic before they proceed.”

They didn’t install a stop sign for the right-turn movement, he told me then, because that would require traffic to stop even when the light is green for that movement. “The result of a stop sign would be a drastic decrease to capacity.  The yield sign allows traffic to proceed unencumbered while the signal is green, but it does not allow a merge.

“An added acceleration lane would have been nice,” he added. “but we did not have enough right-of-way to accommodate the widening for the added lane.”

So, have there been a lot of accidents at that yield since the ramp opened?

Geneva Hawkins of the state’s Collision Data & Analysis office says there had been 20 accidents at that location between the ramp’s opening Nov. 29, 2007, and the end of June this year, the most recent figures available.

All 20 have been rear-end accidents, 15 on the off-ramp (ruled as the result of following to closely), the other five on Highway 303, called the result of inattention. They were distributed evenly, with seven in 2008, eight in 2009 and five the first half of this year.

Four people had injuries, none serious, three of them in a pair of crashes in 2008. There have been no fatalities.

Luoto/Highway 3 on-ramp said site of turning conflicts

The in basket: Two readers have told me there is a problem with westbound drivers on Highway 308 (Luoto Road) ignoring the Yield signs as they arc onto the northbound on-ramp to Highway 3 and endangering left turners, who have the right of way.

Over a year ago, retired Dr. Robert L. Davis, who tells me he founded the emergency room at Harrison Hospital back in 1976, called to say the Yield sign, which requires right turners entering that on-ramp to yield to left turners, was obscured by tree limbs. 

Then last August, after the visibility was improved and a second Yield sign was added, he called again to say, “The other day a guy just about wiped me out at the corner. The signs aren’t doing any good, they need a stop sign there.” 

Walt Barrett of Poulsbo told me something similar at a recent social event, saying right turners don’t have to slow down much to make the corner and many don’t. He wondered who would be at fault if there were a collision between right and left turners onto that ramp. 

The out basket: State Trooper Krista Hedstrom says the driver who passed the Yield sign without yielding and then collided with a left turner would be at fault, barring some egregious contributing factor by the left turner, like not having headlights on at night.

My experience is that most freeway on-ramps are wide enough that there is room to dodge another car even if its driver was careless and in violation of the Yield sign. And the inconvenience at and after collision even if one is in the right makes it worth doing.

Steve Bennett, traffic operations engineer for the state’s Olympic Region, said the second Yield sign actually was supposed to be a “Yield Ahead” sign and they will change it. Both are visible simultaneously, so I can’t imagine that makes much difference.

Krista says there are not many, if any, collisions at that spot due to failure to yield, nor do they get many complaints about collisions narrowly avoided there. So an unusual step like replacing the Yield signs with a stop sign is all the more unlikely.

They will cite for failure to yield when they see it, though, she said.

Corolla driver has problem with new Highway 16 merge

The in basket: Marsha Bradshaw prefaces her complaint about the new interchange at the Burley-Olalla Road on Highway 16 by calling it “wonderful”

“I lost the year to construction but it is so worth it.  The contractor did an excellent job on our wee little overpass and so timely, too!

“But….when one is headed towards Gig Harbor from the Burley-Olalla road on the new on-ramp…those of us with small cars cannot see to merge until the last teeth-grinding seconds of the ramp and the freeway travelers cannot see us to help us merge because the Jersey barriers block our approach all the more. (There’ve) been some fearful moments for a lot of us!

“Side mirrors, twisted necks and rear views are of little help if all one can see is the cement barrier.

I drive a Corolla sedan,” she said. “There are a lot of us short cars around using the on-ramp as well as the taller, more  visible SUV’s and semi’s….please help.”

The out basket: State Project Engineer Brenden Clarke says it’s the first complaint he’s heard about this and there are no plans to modify what is there.

“The distance between the end of the barrier and the beginning of merge area into Highway 16 (the end of acceleration length) is approximately 1,025 feet.  Based upon the average driver and automobile, a 1,025-foot acceleration length would take a driver from 25 mph up to 60 mph.  

“Assuming that a motorist is traveling at 60 mph when they enter into the ‘merge area,’ they will then have adequate distance to merge into Highway 16 traffic and they will be a thousand feet from the barrier so it will not block their line of sight.  

“Difficulties could arise if a motorist does not accelerate up to 60 mph while traveling on the ramp, but this would be true at any interchange.  

“I understand that it does feel more comfortable for motorists to be able to see mainline traffic for the entire duration of the on-ramp, but again, there is sufficient distance in what we call the ‘merge area’ for motorists to look over their shoulder and in their mirrors to identify traffic and make adjustments in order to safely merge into mainline Highway 16.

“The concrete barriers are a permanent feature,” he said. “The reason this interchange makes use of so many concrete barriers is that there are retaining walls between the on- and off-ramps with substantial differences in elevation.  The retaining walls allow the ramps to be closer to mainline Highway 16, reducing the amount of right-of-way necessary for the interchange foot print.

 

 

Freeway mergers must yield

The in basket: Joy Forsberg of Central Kitsap said she got a dirty look from a women who was merging onto Highway 303 at Central Valley Road, heading to Silverdale recently, after Joy had decided to maintain her speed in the outside lane rather than moving over or changing speed to allow the woman in ahead of or behind her. 

It wasn’t the first time, either, she said. Is it no longer the responsibility of the person entering a freeway to yield to anyone on the freeway already, she asked.

Though she often does move to the inside lane in such situations, that time she chose not to. “She should not expect me to speed up or slow down” to let her in, Joy said.

The out basket: No, the law hasn’t changed, and should there have been a collision, the woman entering the freeway would have been at fault. 

In the real world, though, most drivers do move over to the inside lane to make way for the entering car. The dirty look may have been because the other woman was expecting that, rather that a belief that it was a requirement.

The woman did slow and fall in behind her after scowling at her, Joy said. 

She noted that often a car in  the inside lane keeps a driver from moving over, though she didn’t say if that was the case during her small confrontation.

 

 

Yield sign coming to Bangor area Highway 3 merge

The in basket: Don Erickson of Seabeck wrote in July to say “Everyday when I leave Keyport,  I travel west on Luoto Road to Highway 3 and

turn left to the southbound on-ramp of the highway. Shortly after

entering the on-ramp, there are two lanes of traffic from Bangor merging

from the right. 

“Since I’m going straight ahead and the traffic is coming

from the right, I say I have the right of way. But everyday its a fight

to keep from getting bumped from the Bangor traffic flying around the

curve and trying to merge into my lane and further left onto the

highway. 

“Who has the right of way and can there be any enforcement of a

speed limit on the Bangor traffic coming around the curve heading south?”

The out basket: State Trooper Krista Hedstrom, spokeswoman for the local detachments, says Don is incorrect in his belief that he has the right of way there. 

The Merge sign depicts the two lanes from Bangor with a thicker line than it does the single lane Don uses, and the greater thickness of the line confers right of way.

She notes that despite the sign’s placement on the shoulder of the double right turn access, it’s still visible by the single lane. “I do agree, though, that it would not hurt to have another sign placed in a location more visible,” she added.

I had not heard Krista’s interpretation of varying thickness of lines on a Merge sign before, so I asked Olympic Region Traffic Operations Engineer Steve Bennett if the traffic engineer’s bible, the Manual on Uniform Traffic  Control Devices supports it. 

Not in so many words, he replied, but it can be inferred from the words that ARE used. But just “to clear things up, we will be installing a Yield sign so that the single-lane ramp yields to the double-lane ramp,” he said.

As for speed enforcement there, they will definitely attend to that, says Krista, but the freeway’s 60 mph is the speed limit on its on-ramps so a driver would really have to be hitting it to exceed the limit there.