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Evaluating the Use of Flashing Yellow Arrows for Right Turns

Abstract: Driver understanding of flashing yellow arrow (FYA) indications for left turns has been studied extensively; however, the use of FYA for right-turn applications is an area that needs to be better understood through evaluations focused on actual driver behavior especially since the use continues to grow across the country. For example, in the city of Madison, Wisconsin, the use of FYA for right-turn applications has been growing on intersections with significant pedestrian traffic as a design element aimed at increasing yield-to-pedestrian behavior.

Field evaluations and surveys are some alternatives for studying how drivers understand and react to signal indications such as a right-turn FYA. Field evaluations have the advantage of providing insight into the behavior of drivers in a real-life environment by quantifying the behavior or drivers through objective measurements. On the other hand, survey-based evaluations have the advantage of providing rapid insights into how drivers comprehend a wide range of signal indications and configurations such as a right-turn FYA. As part of a collaborative research project between the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the University of Massachusetts – Amherst, the use of a right-turn FYA was evaluated using a computer-based static survey to determine whether drivers grasp the message of the devices. The study evaluated the results from 200 respondents based on the existing passive green and red phase conditions, and a right-turn FYA. Survey results suggest that drivers have a strong comprehension of the right-turn FYA. In fact, a statistical difference between a right-turn FYA and a circular green indication was found for the number of drivers that identify yield as the required action.

The collaborative research also conducted a field-based evaluation. As part of a field-based evaluation, vehicle-pedestrian interactions were documented on sites with and without a right-turn FYA. Documentation of the interactions was achieved by using a frame-by-frame analysis of video recordings from these sites. A model explaining the deviation of a driver from an expected right-turn behavior as a result of the presence of a pedestrian was created. The model takes into consideration the position of a pedestrian within the crosswalk as well as the presence of an FYA indication on the right turn. Findings and analysis procedures resulting from the research can be used to identify and test design elements, such as a right-turn FYA, that could be used to increase yield-to-pedestrian behavior at signalized intersections.

Andrea Bill - Traffic safety engineering Research Program Manager



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