You make a left-turn after yielding to oncoming traffic. The confusion posed by the combination of three features that often send contradictory messages – a flashing light that usually signals proceed with caution, a red light that usually signals stop, and an arrow that signals go in this particular direction only – is the reason why at least six states (North Carolina, Minnesota, Colorado, Missouri, Michigan, and Oregon) have , over the last two years, experimented with a piece of choice architecture – the flashing yellow light – in place of the flashing red arrow.
This year, Michigan has decided to replace all of its flashing red lights with flashing yellows saying the new lights prevent more crashes, move traffic through an intersection faster, and give traffic engineers more options for handling traffic volumes. Michigan says you should expect to see more of these signals across the country in the future. You can see the demo for one here. Or you can watch the grainy video below.
The flashing yellow is meant to fix something called the “yellow trap” (watch it here), where drivers in one direction face a yellow, while drivers in others have a green. The yellow light drivers get impatient (thinking a red light is imminent and assuming the other side has the same set of lights), and rush through the intersection, causing an accident.