If you want to turn left at a green light, you yield to oncoming traffic

I thought this was a fairly simple idea. If you are at an lighted intersection and you want to turn left, you may turn left if:

  1. You have a protected left turn arrow, OR
  2. You have a green light and there is no oncoming traffic (you must yield to oncoming traffic)

Maybe my experience doesn’t match others, but growing up I understood this. When I started driving, I knew this. But over the years I started to see signs hanging from the traffic light wires that have to spell it out. “LEFT TURN YIELD TO ONCOMING TRAFFIC.” It seems like a pretty stupid sign, that is the rule all the time!

Now I have started to see other bizarre ways of conveying this idea. In Northern Virginia I have seen a light that has a standard green left turn arrow for a protected left, and then a blinking yellow arrow for a left turn that must yield. Of course, then they have to hang a sign to explain this crazy contraption of a traffic signal.

Note: This only applies in the US and other countries that drive on the right side of the road.

What was wrong with a standard solid green light, why does that not work? Why is this necessary?

Note: This only applies for the US. Your local traffic laws may vary. Void where prohibited.

Because people are idiots. GREEN MEANS GO!! HERE I GO!!

Just my WAG, but …

I live in NOVA as well, and some intersections actually have a red left turn light while the light is green for going straight. (Or, to use the wording from your OP, they have a protected left turn arrow and a red left turn arrow the rest of the time.) Perhaps the yield sign is to distinguish intersections where yielding left turns are permitted from those in which they are prohibited.

I recognize all of the words in the OP, but I’ve never seen them arranged in that order before.

I’ve been living in Boston for 30 years.

That is not particularly unusual here, either. It drives me a little bit crazy, every time I sit at a red left turn light waiting to make a left turn when there is no oncoming traffic and I could have turned ages ago.

To add to the confusion, Yield On Solid Green also means yield to pedestrians in the crosswalk who have a walk light, you aggressive homicidal fuckers turning left onto Deerfoot Trail. If my walk light has come on, your advanced green left turn arrow is long over - quit yelling at ME when I have the nerve to walk legally. You’re the ones who are breaking the law.

The flashing yellow arrow is a newish federal standard for unprotected left turns.

The OP is clearly overestimating the intelligence of the driving public. I don’t see many of these signs, but we mostly have green arrows.

And btw - if you are stopped at a light and planning to turn left when it turns green - put on your turn signal, so I turning left in the other direction, know it is safe to turn and not wait for you to cross the intersection. Turning on your blinker as you start your turn shows you are unclear on the concept of turn signals.

(Directed to the morons I see practically every trip to the supermarket from my house.)

The turn signal on the car helps those of us behind them, too - if I’m going to sit behind you for a while, I’ll just go in the other lane if I know you’re turning, and this intersection at this time of day will make it a long wait. But noooooo, that’s just what they’d be expecting - an indication of what you’re planning to do!

Here it is…

(Bolding and a big fat DUH! mine)

And, quoth the United States Department of Transportation:

(Duh-free bolding mine)

Interesting quotes you there gotpasswords. Now I know whose fault this is, it’s the dirty feds!

So, it sounds like a solid green was too complex for the lizard brain of the average driver and they needed something “less confusing.”

I am becoming more of a fan of traffic circles all the time.

Used to be (at least in California) that any given intersection had either a protected-left-turn arrow OR and turn-left-when-it’s-safe green light; never both. Nowadays there are intersections where the green arrow turns off, but it’s still ok to turn left when it’s safe. “LEFT TURN YIELD TO ONCOMING TRAFFIC” really means “it’s ok to turn left, even thought the green arrow is not lit.”

Yes. Too many drivers were too stupid to know what a green light means and were causing too many accidents. The nanny state up here has a lot more red arrows than other areas, but it’s still a problem to the point that some permissive lefts had to be converted to protected, at the cost if slowing traffic.

It conveys more information, namely that you can turn left unprotectedly and that you are in a left-turn lane (so don’t go straight) and that you will get a protected left at some point in the cycle (so don’t freak out). (Okay, the last one is my own extrapolation. Perhaps they are sometimes used in cases that are never protected?) Sure, there might be other cues to this information, but redundancy (if provided succinctly) is always good.

Give it a few years and those explanatory signs will be less necessary. But they certainly are at the moment, as evidenced by the number of people I’ve seen stationary and befuddled at the flashing yellow.

Just wait until the same green light idiots realize it isnt against the laws of physics to go either clockwise or counterclockwise in a traffic circle and sometimes one direction is shorter than the other :slight_smile:

I find a traffic circle to be more complex than a traffic light.

It is an optional sign, probably installed on the recommendation of the designing traffic engineer who approved the traffic signal/intersection plans. According to the 2009 Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices, Section 2B.53 (previously Section 2B.45 in the earlier 2003 MUTCD), it and other similar signs may be used to clarify signal control.
Among legends that may be used:

All of these messages seem pretty much a no-brainer to anyone who drives around. But, never underestimate the burning stupid of your fellow driver.

Yeah… once I had a guy turn left and cut off my path the second the light turned green.

Yes, I mean all the cars were buffered on both ends but the second the light turned green he peeled out and cut off 4 lanes of traffic just to make his goddamned turn. It’s a miracle nobody hit him.

I kind of wish there WAS a huge collision where nobody was injured just to get it through his skull, but oh well

New Josiey doesn’t have this problem; they just have frigin’ JUGHANDLES almost* everywhere.

  • When you finally remember to be in the right fucking lane you’ll come on one of the three or five actual left turn lanes in the entire damned state.

In any case, if you are turning left at an unprotected signal, move your car out into the intersection while you wait for your chance to turn! If you have to sit there and wait until the light turns red, so be it. No one is going to jump out and hit you and you will never be ‘stuck’ there. It is legal, permissible, and expected.

Ha, I once saw two cars facing each other just sitting at a green light. Neither had a left turn signal on but both wanted to turn left and were waiting for the other to proceed straight through the intersection. Took them a good 15-20 seconds to figure it out, just in time to make it before the light turned.