Those flashing yellow arrows can be dangerous if you don't yield

The flashing arrows have Plymouth police concerned over an increase in crashes.

Stop taking risks when you have a flashing yellow arrow.

That's the message from the Plymouth Police Department, which has been getting complaints about drivers not yielding at intersections with flashing yellow arrows.

If you haven't seen one of these newer stoplights before, here's how they work: They feature a flashing yellow arrow in addition the standard red, yellow and green arrows. When illuminated, the flashing yellow arrow allows waiting motorists to make a left-hand turn after yielding to oncoming traffic – if the yellow arrow isn’t flashing, the traffic signals work the same as traditional stoplights.

These flashing yellow arrows are designed to better control the flow of traffic and reduce crashes, but when people don't approach them appropriately, it can be dangerous.

That's what's been happening at at least one intersection in Plymouth. Police say analysis of crashes at Rockford Road and Fernbrook Lane, 47 percent of crashes from March 10, 2016, through Feb. 22, 2017, were directly related to a vehicle failing to yield at a flashing yellow arrow.

“Distraction, impatience and lack of understanding can contribute to serious and even deadly crashes. Nearly half of the crashes at Fernbrook Lane and Rockford Road could have been avoided had people properly yielded or if motorists had shown some courtesy and not honked at the driver in front of them – encouraging them to turn when they did not feel it was safe to do so,” Plymouth Police Chief Mike Goldstein said in a statement.

To make intersections safer, the Plymouth Traffic Unit has been working with Hennepin County to reprogram when the flashing yellow arrows are used. Officials have also requested the yellow arrows be disabled when pedestrians push the walk button, hoping this will increase the safety for people in crosswalks.

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