Ask a Trooper: Flashing yellow arrow indicates legal left turn with cautionQ: At two intersections in Duluth, I’ve noticed coming up to the intersections as the lights were changing that my lanes turned solid red but the flashing caution arrows for a left-hand turn were also activated.
Q: At two intersections in Duluth, I’ve noticed coming up to the intersections as the lights were changing that my lanes turned solid red but the flashing caution arrows for a left-hand turn were also activated. I’m sure it would be illegal to turn. It was flashing for a very short time. Is that a temporary glitch in the system? The intersections were at Maple Grove and Stebner roads traveling north on Stebner and at Arrowhead and Haines roads traveling east. Thank you and the previous officer for all the information over the years!
A: You are welcome! We are very fortunate to be able to communicate through this method and we are grateful for the opportunity to answer questions related to traffic safety.
To answer the question, I am sure there are no glitches. There have been some changes in certain traffic signals in Minnesota when it comes to left turns, and what you experienced may have been those changes. The changes allow a feature for flashing yellow left turn arrows. New signals feature the flashing yellow arrow in addition to the standard red, yellow and green we now have. When lit, the flashing yellow arrows allow drivers to make left-hand turns — but only after yielding to oncoming traffic and pedestrians.
It is extremely important for drivers to remind themselves that the oncoming traffic has a green light and the right of way. Drivers need to stay focused with this change, making sure they have enough room to make a safe turn by properly judging the distance of oncoming vehicles and taking in account the speed of traffic on that particular road. There will be more and more of these as old signals get replaced and new intersection lights are added.
I checked, and found out from a St. Louis County traffic engineer that the intersection at Maple Grove and Stebner does indeed have that new type of flashing yellow arrow system, but the other intersection (Arrowhead and Haines) does not. Thanks for asking.
Sgt. Curt S. Mowers is a regional public information officer for the Minnesota State Patrol.