Fort Worth

New Traffic Signals Designed to Save Lives, Blamed for Taking One

A traffic signal designed to make roads safer is coming under fire for doing just the opposite. You've probably seen the new flashing yellow left-turn arrows at many North Texas intersections. It's the new standard to signal you can turn, but must yield to oncoming traffic.

The signals are still being phased in, so they vary from block to block, confusing some drivers. NBC 5 sat down with one woman who is suffering the consequences and pushing for a change.

Luis and Kelly Talamantes had a beautiful life.

"He was my best friend. He was my soul mate," Kelly Talamantes said.

She loved his thoughtfulness, how he sent home videos from every business trip. He admired her generous spirit.

"He goes, 'You have the gift of forgiving and forgetting. I don't know how you do it,'" Talamantes said.

But they never knew how much she would need that gift.

"I don't remember anything of the accident," she said.

She can't recall the clash of metal, the car slamming into her husband's motorcycle, throwing him into a metal pole and launching her 400 feet into a brick wall.

"He died instantly. They said that he was bleeding internally," Talamantes said. "This is actually my first time standing out here since it happened."

As she stood at the scene of the crash, the intersection of Heritage Trace and North Beach, she was standing a new prosthetic leg – and standing with a new purpose.

"I heard that there was multiple accidents here," Talamantes said. "It's just a shame that it took a death for them to change it."

She's talking about the left turn signal at that intersection. Back on that April night, it was a blinking yellow arrow, meaning turn with caution. As Talamantes and her husband drove straight through a green light, a 17-year-old driver misjudged the distance and turned left into their path.

"He tried to rush it to make the light, not realizing that we had a green light," Talamantes said.

That same week there were two more crashes in the same spot, prompting the city to shut off the flashing yellow signal. But just one traffic light west of there, at Heritage Trace and North Riverside, that blinking left turn remains.

"So they're waiting for another fatal accident to happen before they change this one as well? I don't know," Talamantes said.

Fort Worth City Councilman Cary Moon said he recognized the problem.

"When we started having a high number of accidents at our intersections," he said.

He says those blinking yellow arrows are the new standard for left turns. The Texas Department of Transportation believes they're safer and they ease traffic gridlock.

"That allows a few more cars to get through that intersection in less time," Moon said.

But changing technology means there's no consistency from one block to the next. Fort Worth has 880 signalized intersections.

"And we have at least three to four different types of signalization and signage on left turn lanes," Moon said.

There's the left turn yield on green; a solid yellow arrow, meaning prepare to stop; and the new blinking left for turn, but yield to oncoming traffic.

"This is a hard example of why drivers can get confused," Moon said, pointing to one intersection.

The city does a traffic study before every signal change. But Councilman Moon says you can't always tell how drivers will react until the signal goes live and they notice a pattern of accidents. Crashes spiked at Heritage Trace and North Beach but not at the next light over.

"Unfortunately we are, as a city, reactive a lot of times," Moon said. "I think that the city, just as we did for roundabouts, that we need to educate our drivers on the different signalization at our intersections."

To Talamantes, that's a small step in the right direction, something she knows all about. Through hard work at physical therapy, she's walking on her new prosthetic far sooner than anyone expected, and she's grateful for every breath.

Despite her loss, life goes on. There are kids to feed, new ways to get around. But her husband's voice, as she lay unconscious in the hospital, is never far away.

"I remember him saying you need to go back and you need to take care of the kids. If anybody can do this, it's you, and that's what I remember. And when I woke up, I was just blessed to be there, and I wanted to be there for my kids," Talamantes said.

That message is now a mission, to push forward and push for safety on every street corner.

"If you're gonna make a change you should make a change for good, for everything, for everybody," Talamantes said.

Talamantes hopes to inspire others to push through their struggles. She's shared her story on social media, reminding every motorcycle driver to wear the helmet that saved her life, and urging parents to talk to their kids about safe driving.

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