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Traffic-signal experiment in Encinitas

“The study shows the new lights are more intuitive and lower crashes.”

It's a “protective/permissive” signal, says a city traffic engineer.
It's a “protective/permissive” signal, says a city traffic engineer.

Encinitas drivers are seeing a new type of traffic signal on South Vulcan Avenue, at the intersection of D Street — something not seen much in California. And some motorists have complained of dangerously making the wrong move.

The normal four-light traffic signal allowing for dedicated left turns, combined with left-turn yields on a solid green light, was replaced last week. The new signal has a flashing yellow left-turn arrow, which means it’s okay to make a left-hand turn with caution, yielding to oncoming traffic. A sign has been posted to advise motorists what the flashing yellow arrow means.

“I’ve traveled all over the United States and I’ve never seen anything like it,” said Leucadia resident Paula Vrakas.

Luke Baker, a traffic engineer for the city, said El Cajon is the only other city in San Diego County to use this new type of signal known as “protective/permissive.”

“California has been very slow to adopt the findings of the Federal Highway Administration,” said Baker. “The study shows the new lights are more intuitive and lower crashes.”

Encinitas councilman Tony Kranz first asked the city to look into the new lights, which are becoming the standard in other parts of the country, according to Baker.

The signal, on the northwest corner of the city hall complex, is in a one-year test phase to see how the public reacts and if it will reduce accidents. If the light succeeds at its goal, the safety of the intersection will contrast to the signal a block north: absent a left-turn green arrow onto busy Encinitas Boulevard, cars traveling east and westbound on South Vulcan, turning left toward either I-5 or Coast Highway 101, often do not yield the right-of-way to vehicles traveling straight through the intersection.

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It's a “protective/permissive” signal, says a city traffic engineer.
It's a “protective/permissive” signal, says a city traffic engineer.

Encinitas drivers are seeing a new type of traffic signal on South Vulcan Avenue, at the intersection of D Street — something not seen much in California. And some motorists have complained of dangerously making the wrong move.

The normal four-light traffic signal allowing for dedicated left turns, combined with left-turn yields on a solid green light, was replaced last week. The new signal has a flashing yellow left-turn arrow, which means it’s okay to make a left-hand turn with caution, yielding to oncoming traffic. A sign has been posted to advise motorists what the flashing yellow arrow means.

“I’ve traveled all over the United States and I’ve never seen anything like it,” said Leucadia resident Paula Vrakas.

Luke Baker, a traffic engineer for the city, said El Cajon is the only other city in San Diego County to use this new type of signal known as “protective/permissive.”

“California has been very slow to adopt the findings of the Federal Highway Administration,” said Baker. “The study shows the new lights are more intuitive and lower crashes.”

Encinitas councilman Tony Kranz first asked the city to look into the new lights, which are becoming the standard in other parts of the country, according to Baker.

The signal, on the northwest corner of the city hall complex, is in a one-year test phase to see how the public reacts and if it will reduce accidents. If the light succeeds at its goal, the safety of the intersection will contrast to the signal a block north: absent a left-turn green arrow onto busy Encinitas Boulevard, cars traveling east and westbound on South Vulcan, turning left toward either I-5 or Coast Highway 101, often do not yield the right-of-way to vehicles traveling straight through the intersection.

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Comments
6

These lights work great in El Cajon. But in pockets where you have self-important people barreling down the road in their Range Rovers, it might not work.

March 29, 2016

That area in Encinitas surely needs something to keep traffic moving. But there should be some predictability in traffic signal design, and instead the US seems to be moving away from that. Twenty-plus years ago, San Marcos put in some new-style signals that, if I remember properly, had left turn arrows but also allowed left turns on green without the arrow. San Marcos then seemed to abandon them after the tragic school bus crash that killed a 13-year old girl. (For about as long as I've lived in this state, I wondered why it almost exclusively used left turn storage lanes and arrows that allowed the turns only when the arrow was lit. Other areas of the US have the arrows, but allow left turns when there's no opposing traffic.) This flashing arrow sounds a bit like the flashing yellow they have in the UK that allows traffic to proceed against a red light if nobody is coming on the cross street, or something like that. Very confusing, and just another reason to avoid driving at all there.

So add this new wrinkle to all the traffic circles that are being installed, and we'll all have to learn to drive again.

March 29, 2016

The flashing yellow arrow will confuse motorists who will think it is safe to turn just as they do when they get a solid yellow arrow believing that the oncoming traffic has a red light. Traffic circles are an IQ test that most motorists fail. In a traffic circle it takes only one idiot to screw up the whole flow of things, I remember the San Marcos crash. It was the result of traffic engineers not leaving well enough alone. If it ain't broke don't fix it.

March 30, 2016

Traffic circles may turn out well, but I've seen a few that are worse than the old 4-way stop they replaced. Carlsbad put one in on Carlsbad Blvd (old 101) just south of the Buena Vista Lagoon. It handles the intersection with State Street. The old storage lane seemed to work just fine. But the city could not leave well enough alone, and made a traffic circle that is hard to see across, on a slope, and which makes what was a simple left turn into a slalom of turns to the right, then left, then right in close succession. It is now permanently equipped with flashing Yield signs because of the confusing nature. Yet about a year ago, some traffic agency give Carlsbad an award for that botched effort. Rather than an award, someone needed to be shot for the mess there.

March 30, 2016

Good points, AlexClarke, but in my opinion those who cannot adapt should be taken off of the road. I favor annual behind-the-wheel driving tests because the level of stupid is rising

March 30, 2016

Near the Denver Airport they put these signals in on the intersections accessing the connector road to the terminal. The accident counts (according to the Denver police department) have gone through the roof because tourists do not understand or comprehend what is going on. Let's hope we survive the tourist traffic!!

March 30, 2016

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