(Please visit one of our advertisers)

No donations or subscriptions are required

Subscription choices:
Board Karma = 40  (3452 positive of 3834 votes is 40 %pts higher than a neutral 50%)
All Things (Safety Oriented) Motorcycle   
Save Password
Forgot your Password?

You can the entire collection of Safety Tip articles in a 33 Megabyte PDF Portfolio

 All Forums
 Motorcycle Safety
 General Discussion
 Flashing Yellow Left-turn Signal
Member Previous Topic Discussion Topic Next Topic  

James R. Davis
Male Administrator
17333 Posts

Houston, TX


GoldWing 1500

Posted - 11/19/2018 :  9:14 PM Follow poster on Twitter  Join poster on Facebook as Friend                        Like
I thought that I knew 'everything' there was to know about traffic signal lights. I didn't.

On a recent case I was retained on, a motorcyclist was badly injured because a truck driver thought he knew what a flashing yellow left-turn signal meant and, like me, he was wrong.

A quick review ...

A solid green left-turn arrow means that you can make a left turn.

A solid yellow left-turn arrow means that a left turn may be made, but that signal is soon going to turn red and you must not be in the intersection when that happens.

Of course, a solid red left-turn arrow means that you may not make a left turn.

The first two signals (green and yellow) have something in common - they are PROTECTED. That means that oncoming traffic has a red light while these are on.

In the case that the left-turn signal (green or yellow) is flashing, it means Caution/Warning/Danger (or that the signals are somehow defective).

But what I didn't know before recently is that unlike the other signals mentioned so far, a flashing yellow left-turn arrow is NOT PROTECTED. Oncoming traffic is presented a GREEN light while a flashing yellow left-turn arrow is shown.!!! (IN CASE YOU HAVE NOT YET PROCESSED THIS COMPLETELY, THIS MEANS THAT IF YOU HAVE A SOLID GREEN LIGHT AT AN INTERSECTION, YOU ARE NOT PROTECTED FROM LEFT TURNING ONCOMING TRAFFIC!!!!)

You may not have seen a flashing yellow left-turn arrow yet, but they are scheduled to be found in every state soon.

The study that was conducted and relied upon to convince traffic engineers to adopt the flashing yellow left-turn arrow signal showed pretty convincingly that drivers TENDED to stop before making a left turn when seeing that signal. That's the positive. But that same study showed that some (no idea how many) were confused by what it meant.

Don't be one of the ones confused. Now you know.

If only that truck driver had known, one of our brother riders might not have been injured at all.

Advanced Member
6921 Posts

Meridian, ID


XR650L, 1090 Adv R

Posted - 11/20/2018 :  8:34 AM
The flashing yellow left-turn signal was rare in California, but they're all over the place in Idaho. It has taken me months to adjust to them. I like that there is a short period of time when I can make a protected left turn for when traffic is heavy, but that I can also make a left turn when oncoming traffic clears.

I've finally reached the point where I think of all left turners as potential threats regardless of what color my light is at an intersection. When I lived in California, left turners were rarely a threat.

Thanks for the reminder. We should get the word out to other riders in areas where the flashing left turn arrows are coming soon.
Go to Top of Page

Male Standard Member
118 Posts

Arch Cape, Oregon


R 1200 RT

Posted - 11/20/2018 :  12:41 PM
Thanks for the reminder of the importance of knowing what less frequently seen signs/signals mean. Both so we as riders get it correct but also so we have a better idea of what other vehicles will do.

Along a related subject, it is important to know the laws in the state in which you are riding.

Consider stopping for a school bus with lights flashing indicating loading or unloading children.

In Oregon, where I live, on a 4 lane road both lanes in the opposite direction must stop for a school bus unless the highway is divided with a center median. Get it wrong and it will cost over $300.

In Washington, just an hour to the north of me, drivers in the opposite direction must stop on two lane roads but not on three lane roads. Get it wrong and it will cost over $400.

So a Washington rider in Oregon might cruise past a school bus when they should not and get a ticket (hopefully not striking a child). But an Oregon rider in Washington might come to a stop for a school bus when not necessary. This could lead to a rear end collision by a following vehicle not expecting a motorcycle to stop when not necessary.
Go to Top of Page
  Previous Topic Discussion Topic Next Topic  
Jump To:
All Things (Safety Oriented) Motorcycle © Master Strategy Group Go To Top Of Page
  This page was generated in 0.27 seconds. Powered By: Snitz Forums 2000 Version 3.4.05