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Understanding the Yellow Flashing Arrow at Traffic Lights

Yellow Flashing Traffic Light Arrow

Red, yellow, green means stop, slow down and go. Sometimes you see a solid green arrow meaning you can turn that direction. Now, you might also see a solid yellow arrow and a flashing yellow arrow. Do you know the difference?


What do the arrows at traffic lights mean?

Solid red arrow: Drivers intending to turn left must stop and wait. Do not enter an intersection to turn when a solid red arrow is being displayed

Solid yellow arrow: The left-turn signal is about to change to red and drivers should prepare to stop or prepare to complete a left turn if they are legally within the intersection and there is no conflicting traffic present.

Flashing yellow arrow: Drivers are allowed to turn left after yielding to all oncoming traffic and to any pedestrians in the crosswalk. Oncoming traffic has a green light. Drivers must wait for a safe gap in oncoming traffic before turning.

The flashing yellow arrow DOES NOT replace the solid yellow arrow and its meaning; it DOES replace the green “ball” indication as a signal for a yielding left turn.

Solid green arrow: Left turns have the right of way. Oncoming traffic has a red light.


MoDOT Flashing Yellow Left-Turn Arrows

According to MoDOT: Drivers should stop at the intersection, and yield to oncoming traffic. If and when it is safe, make your left turn and proceed through the intersection. When the available time for the flashing yellow arrow ends, the solid yellow left-turn arrow begins. The solid yellow retains its standard meaning: the left turn signal is about to go to red and they should prepare to stop, or prepare to complete their left turn if they are in the intersection.

The solid green light is often misunderstood as a left turn indicator. This is because drivers naturally think “green means go”. Traffic making a left turn on a solid green light sometimes does not yield to oncoming traffic, which can result in more crashes. The flashing yellow arrow allows left turns but at the same time communicates the “caution” message to drivers.


Tips for Drivers

  • Any flashing yellow signal means you must proceed with caution.
  • A signal showing an arrow applies to turning traffic and you can only turn in the direction of the arrow.
  • A flashing yellow arrow does NOT give you the right of way.
  • A flashing yellow arrow means you may turn only after yielding to other vehicles and pedestrians, turning only once it is safe and clear.

Drivers should always remember: a flashing yellow = turn with caution.


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