New flashing yellow traffic signals cause confusion for Lakewood drivers

City says they improve safety & traffic flows

LAKEWOOD, Colo. - New left turn traffic signals in Lakewood are causing some confusion for drivers, but the city says they're key to improving traffic flows and safety.

"What I named it is, 'left turn signal roulette,'" said driver Mike Simonavice. "Maybe it will go green, maybe it will go red."

The signal has four different options instead of the normal three that are common at left hand traffic signals. They also don't always give you a green arrow first.

The new signal is a flashing yellow arrow.

Lakewood said it installed the first signal back in October and has now installed a total of 14 at intersections across the city including Alameda Avenue and Garrison Street. There a solid red arrow turns into a flashing yellow, and then a solid green, followed by solid yellow.

During the flashing yellow, drivers are supposed to yield to oncoming traffic that has a green light.

When the arrow turns solid green, left turns have the right of way and oncoming traffic has a red light.

The solid yellow arrow means the signal is about to turn red and drivers should prepare to stop.

Simonavice said he learned the hard way how these new lights work.

"I was the one that got the ticket because I was failing to yield on a left turn," he said.

Simonavice said he was trying to make a left turn southbound on Garrison Street.

He had a flashing yellow arrow, and thinking it would turn red soon - he pulled into the intersection and was hit by a Toyota corolla.

"You can see where she clipped me back here and she hit my frame," Simonavice said while showing Denver7 reporter Jennifer Kovaleski the damage.

If Simonavice would have waited a few more seconds the light would have turned to a solid green arrow and he could have crossed the intersection safely.

"We have some complaints and we have some compliments," said Lakewood traffic engineer David Baskett. "The purpose is generally to improve safety and traffic flow."

Baskett said the point of the flashing yellow arrows is to speed up traffic, prevent drivers from stopping and decrease wait times to make a left turn.

"If you start out with a flashing yellow - just wait until you have an adequate gap to make the turn or it will turn into a green arrow for you," he said.

Baskett also said studies show the new lights actually reduce accidents, not increase them.

But drivers like Simonavice don't agree.

"I don't want to go near that intersection," he said.

A handful of other metro area cities have installed these flashing yellow arrows including Aurora and Denver. 


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