SC launching new traffic turn signal - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina |

SC launching new traffic turn signal

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An explanation of the new four-head signal including the flashing yellow arrow. (Source: SCDOT) An explanation of the new four-head signal including the flashing yellow arrow. (Source: SCDOT)
COLUMBIA, SC (FOX Carolina) -

The state's transportation department is launching a new left-turn traffic signal to help keep motorists and pedestrians safer.

The South Carolina Department of Transportation is beginning installation of a new traffic signal, commonly called a "flashing yellow arrow" left-turn signal.

The signal is supposed to make it easier for drivers making a left turn by signaling when - and how - they should cross the intersection.

The signal adds a flashing yellow arrow, which means left turns are permitted but drivers must use caution and yield to oncoming traffic, cyclists and pedestrians by turning when the intersection is clear.

"So many times as you're getting further out in the intersection waiting to turn, you have to look far to the right to see what the signal light is doing," said Carol Jones, SCDOT's Traffic Signal and Systems Engineer. "Having this type of signal head in your left-turn lane will give you better visibility on what to do and at what point. It's all about visibility, and that translates into improved safety."

The new light will replace the common five-head light or be added to left-turn lanes where there were no signals previously. It will be a four-section signal that includes from top to bottom, a solid red arrow, a solid yellow arrow, a flashing yellow arrow and a solid green arrow.

FOX Carolina spoke with education instructors about the new lights. Calvin Osteen of the budget driving school says left turns are almost always a problem for his new drivers. He said he's on board with any improvement to traffic signals but was surprised to hear this change is happening so soon in South Carolina.

"I believe that's going to take some getting used to," said Osteen. "That might clear the intersections up a bit, speed it up, but I think it would take a while to get used to that."

Another instructor at the Woodruff Driving School said there doesn't seem to be a good reason for the new lights, and believes they will create confusion.

"Those who aren't paying attention to the light anyway, they're going to take that as a sign that they can go ahead and turn anyway the same as if it was green," said driving instructor Marianne Bassett.

The SCDOT said about 10 to 15 lights will be installed in the next year, but the locations have not yet been determined. The first light will be installed Wednesday in Richland County at the intersection of Farrow Road (SC 555) and Parklane Road/Carolina Research Park.

FOX Carolina attempted to contact the SCDOT Monday for information about how much money the new lights will cost, but they did not return our calls.

Similar flashing turn signals have been implemented in other states across the country. Curious how the light will work? Watch this clip from Washington County in Oregon.

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