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RIDOT introducing new traffic signal technology

The Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) announced that on Tuesday, April 17, it will activate the first flashing yellow arrow traffic signal in the state on Route 3 (Tiogue Avenue) in Coventry. The new signal is being installed as part of the Route 3 resurfacing project, a $3.5-million investment in Tiogue Avenue from Sandy Bottom Road to Reservoir Road.

The signal will replace an existing traffic light on Route 3 at the entrance to Stop & Shop (900 Tiogue Avenue), and motorists across the state will start seeing more flashing yellow signals as RIDOT completes intersection improvement projects. The second flashing yellow arrow traffic signal is expected to be installed this summer at the intersection of Langworthy Road and Route 1 (Post Road) at Dunn's Corner in Westerly.

While this is the first use of this type of traffic signal in Rhode Island, departments of transportation across the country are embracing flashing yellow arrow signals at intersections with certain types of left-turn signals to improve safety and move traffic more efficiently. These traditional signals initially allow left turns while oncoming traffic is stopped, but then left-turning motorists must yield to oncoming traffic on a solid green light. However, motorists often do not yield at intersections with this kind of signal.

"When drivers see a green light, they get the message that it is clear to go," RIDOT Director Michael P. Lewis said. "That message is counter-intuitive. They really need something that tells them they can go, but may have to wait to make their turn."

The new signal improves the existing left-turn signal by adding a flashing yellow arrow to the sequence of lights. Drivers still get a green arrow, indicating they can turn left while protected from oncoming traffic. When that time is over, the signal shows a yellow arrow, telling drivers that the signal is changing and they need to get ready to stop. The light then shows a flashing yellow arrow, which signals to drivers that they can proceed if the intersection is clear. Oncoming traffic has a green light during a flashing yellow arrow. The sequence typically ends by showing a steady yellow arrow followed by a steady red arrow, requiring a full stop.

National studies have found that intersections with flashing yellow arrow signals have fewer crashes as compared with traditional signals. Flashing yellow arrow signals also have been installed to minimize delay by providing more opportunities to make left turns.

RIDOT has developed a website ( to help explain the operation of this new technology. The page also contains links to other DOT websites that feature animations and videos showing how flashing yellow arrow signals work.

Motorists with questions can contact RIDOT's Customer Service office at 401-222-2450 weekdays from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Additional information may be available on RIDOT's social media sites on Twitter and Facebook.

Contact: Charles St. Martin 401-222-1362 x4007

Related links

  • Department or agency: Department of Transportation
  • Online:
  • Release date: 04-12-2012

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