LaTina W. Bundy 540-899-4560

Kelly Hannon 540-374-3344


July 26, 2011

U.S. 1 Traffic Signal will be First VDOT Use of Flashing Yellow Arrow in Northern Virginia

FREDERICKSBURG—A new traffic signal operations display to help drivers turn left safely against oncoming traffic will be part of a new traffic signal project under construction on U.S. 1 in Stafford County.


A flashing yellow arrow will be installed by the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) on the signal head at the intersection of U.S. 1 (Jefferson Davis Highway) and the on-ramp entrance to northbound Interstate 95 at Exit 143/Aquia and Garrisonville Road.  


The new signal on U.S. 1 is expected to be activated in mid-August. The signal will be in flash mode for several days before activation.

The new signal will display four arrows. Northbound U.S.1 drivers turning left onto the northbound I-95 on-ramp will first have a green arrow to make protected left turns. When the green arrow disappears, a steady yellow arrow will appear above it, indicating the signal is changing. Then, a flashing yellow arrow will appear, communicating that drivers have permission to turn left onto northbound I-95, but must first yield to traffic on southbound U.S. 1. Finally, a red arrow will tell drivers to stop.


Deciding whether to turn left against oncoming traffic is among the most challenging and high-risk decisions for drivers, according to the National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP). Motorists must assess the speed and distance of the approaching traffic as they make the decision to turn left.


The research program initiated a study in 2009 that assessed how drivers interpret symbols and signs for left turns, and found that a flashing yellow arrow was safer, better understood, and obeyed more frequently.


Before the introduction of the flashing yellow arrow, Virginia has used a solid green ball on traffic signals to indicate that drivers may turn left while yielding to oncoming traffic. This green ball is often supplemented by a “Left Turn Yield on Green,” sign posted on the signal mast arm. 


“Motorists throughout the United States travel through Virginia on Interstate 95,” said Peter Hedrich, P.E.,VDOT area traffic engineer, Fredericksburg District. “Installing a flashing yellow arrow at this entrance to I-95 will benefit Stafford County residents and out-of-town travelers by clearly communicating how to navigate left turns at this intersection.”


Flashing yellow arrows are recognized in the most recent edition of the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices. This manual, published by the U.S. Federal Highway Administration, governs traffic signal devices and signs throughout the United States.  


Nearly half of all states in the U.S. now have at least one signalized intersection with a flashing yellow arrow.


VDOT will continue to evaluate the installation of flashing yellow arrows on new traffic signals where left turns against oncoming traffic are permitted. Additionally, the feasibility and benefits of flashing yellow arrows will be evaluated when changes are warranted on existing traffic signals.


The new traffic signal on U.S. 1 in Stafford will be the seventh intersection with the flashing yellow arrow signal statewide installed by VDOT. The first three installations occurred in James City County on Route 60 at Busch Gardens in June 2010. The next three occurred in southwest Virginia: One in Roanoke County at the intersection of Route 800 and Route 687 in Aug. 2010, and two on the Virginia Tech campus in Sept. 2010.


Message boards will be posted in the vicinity of the new signal, notifying motorists of the new traffic pattern and flashing yellow arrow.


The $188,000 cost for signal installation is being funded by Highway Safety Improvement Program funds, with the flashing yellow arrow being only a small part of the total project cost.



Information in VDOT news releases was accurate at the time the release was published. For the most current information about projects or programs, please visit the project or program Web pages. You may find those by searching by keyword in the search Virginia DOT box above.

Page last modified: Oct. 17, 2012