New signal may reduce confusion at intersection

New signal may reduce confusion at intersection
The city’s Traffic and Public Safety Commission is recommending approval of a one-year test run of new traffic signal at the intersection of D Street and Vulcan Avenue. Photo by Aaron Burgin

City Council will consider the new signal at an upcoming meeting

ENCINITAS — The city of Encinitas is considering installing flashing yellow arrow signals at a downtown intersection, which officials said would reduce confusion at the intersection, as well as vehicle emissions and fuel consumption.

The Traffic and Public Safety Commission recently recommended approval of a one-year test run of the new type of intersection at D Street and Vulcan Avenue, where left turn movement is currently controlled by a permissive protective traffic signal, one of two such intersections in Encinitas.  The other is on the corner of Vulcan Avenue and Leucadia Boulevard. The City Council will consider adoption at an upcoming meeting.

The installation of the new signal will cost $8,900.

In the case of the flashing yellow arrow signals, once the protected left turn signal cycle ends, it is replaced by a flashing yellow arrow, which lets drivers know they can make a left turn, but must yield to oncoming and pedestrian traffic.

Flashing yellow arrow signals might be new to Encinitas, but in places like El Cajon and Las Vegas, they have quickly replaced the permissive protective variety, which controls left turn movement with a green arrow for a few seconds before the arrow disappears and drivers are left to make left turns at their own risk. Traffic engineers have expressed concern about this type of permissive/protective intersections because drivers have expressed confusion as to whether the green light — which directs thru traffic — gives drivers making a left turn the right of way.

In San Diego County, that confusion was the primary culprit in a fatal 1992 crash in San Marcos at Mission Road and Mulberry Avenue between a school bus and a recreational vehicle. As a result, this type of intersection is already fairly uncommon throughout the county.

Traffic engineers have tried to lessen that confusion by posting “left turn yield on green ball” signs at these intersections, but federal and state traffic officials have over the past few years concluded that the flashing yellow arrow intersections are safer than the permissive protective ones.

Because they are relatively new to San Diego County, the Traffic and Public Safety Commission also recommended that the city develop a public education program to alert and educate motorists about the new signal.

If after the trial the signal is deemed successful, Encinitas residents could see more such intersections around the city.

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