Traffic lights at intersections are undergoing a change in some towns and cities in Maine and it's causing confusion for some drivers.

I was traveling down Congress Street in Portland on Sunday and came to the intersection with Elm, planning to turn left. I was ready to go, but the person in front of me didn't seem to know what the light meant. It was a flashing yellow arrow pointing left, something that is new to a lot of drivers. The configuration of the light is identical to this one on Route 1 in Falmouth.

Yellow Arrow Flashing Falmouth
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This yellow arrow is actually flashing. The picture just caught it when it was on. The same thing was happening with the light that I and the confused driver were at.

As more and more intersections in Maine are being upgraded to use a flashing yellow arrow for the left turn lane, some drivers won't know what it means. I get it. It's a new thing and it's all to improve safety.

The yellow flashing light means that a driver can turn left but must yield to oncoming traffic. This type of signal is becoming more and more common across the country. In this Virginia Department of Transportation video, a traffic engineer explains that the five signal light was confusing to a lot of drivers and causing accidents. The yellow flashing light is more easily understandable and has reduced traffic accidents for those turning left.

So next time you see a flashing yellow arrow pointing left, you are free to turn after yielding to any oncoming traffic. If the arrow is solid yellow, like all traffic lights, it's about to turn to a solid red. Be prepared to stop.

 

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