More Crashes at Intersections With Flashing Lights

Researchers unsure if flashing lights confuse, or if they are at already dangerous intersections

yellow light

Be care the next time you approach an intersection with a flashing light.

Researchers at the University of Texas found that intersections with flashing lights have three times more accidents than those with only stop signs.

Researchers also found that the intersections with highway frontage roads are among the most dangerous in the country.

The research team led by professor Chandra Bhat examined which intersections were the most dangerous. A follow-on study will look at how they can be improved.

Roughly 40 percent of all traffic accidents take place at intersections. Bhat said it wasn't clear if flashing lights confused drivers, or if the traffic engineers are placing flashing lights at the most dangerous intersections.

"I think the flashing is really distracting drivers. Because its just not what they're used to looking at" says Chad Henry, who teaches driving at 1-2-3 Driving School in Plano, theorized.

He says flashing yellow lights can cause drivers some of their biggest problems.

"The blinking, I think, also causes a sense of urgency for the driver that they didn't have when it was the traditional green, solid yellow, red pattern" says Henry.

One intersection in Richardson, at Waterview Parkway and Synergy Park Boulevard, even features a flashing yellow arrow, which Henry said confuses drivers even more.

"'Should I go or what should I do here?' They're just unsure", said Henry. "What the law really wants us to do is to go ahead and proceed on through if it's safe".

But although the Texas Drivers Handbook talks about flashing yellow lights, and yellow lights before red, nowhere does it address flashing arrows.

"People are slowing down before they're going through, which means they're exposed to the oncoming traffic a little bit longer than if they maintained their speed" said Henry.

Drivers exiting highways are also more likely to crash, either because they are going too fast or switching lanes in a dangerous manner.

More: Research Warns Drivers About Most Deadly, Accident-Prone Intersections

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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