New traffic lights in Galesburg, Ill., are meant to prevent left-turn wrecks, but they may be confusing drivers in the process.
Over the past month, the Illinois Department of Transportation has installed flashing yellow arrows at nine intersections in the city. The arrows replaced traditional green circular lights, but mean the same thing — drivers must yield to oncoming traffic and pedestrians, then make their left turn.
“The main reason for the switch is safety,” said IDOT traffic engineer Randy Laninga.
Peoria, Illinois has seen a 20 percent reduction in all left-turn crashes and a 30 percent decline in T-bone crashes since the arrows were installed there last year, said Laninga. Another benefit is less wait time for drivers. IDOT says there are more opportunities to turn left with the flashing yellow arrow.
Some drivers agree with Laninga.
“I think it’s pretty nice to have them there,” said Floris Briggs.
But not everyone in Galesburg is on board.
“I just felt that the turn lights were kind of a waste of money, since most people are going to wait until it’s clear to turn, they know they can turn on green as long as it’s clear,” said Mary Goley.
“I think they brought it on too fast without explaining it. People are gonna be confused, and maybe a few wrecks along the way,” added Bob Taylor.
So far, more than 40 states have adopted the arrows. Only a few cities in Illinois, though, have made the change, making Peoria, Galesburg, and the rest of IDOT District 4 a guinea pig for the rest of the state.
It costs about $12,000 per intersection to make the switch. Ninety percent, though, was paid for with Federal Highway Administration safety funds. IDOT funded another 5 percent of the project, and the City of Galesburg covered the remaining 5 percent.