In the past several weeks, drivers at one intersection on U.S. 31 in Franklin have been greeted by an unfamiliar sight: a flashing yellow turn signal.
The new signal for traffic westbound on Jefferson Street at U.S. 31 is gradually being implemented across the state and will make intersections safer and more efficient, state officials said. Once construction is complete on Jefferson Street, which is currently closed east of U.S. 31, drivers heading east will also be directed by the new signals.
Stephanie Sweares, who goes through the intersection every day on her way to work in Franklin, said the new signals made sense right away, but she wants to see how the situation works once construction wraps up.
Only a few other Johnson County intersections have this new type of turn signal, which the Indiana Department of Transportation introduced in 2013 with the goal of creating safer intersections, INDOT Southeast District traffic engineer Hillary Lowther said.
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Drivers heading west on Stones Crossing Road will see the flashing yellow lights as they attempt to turn north onto State Road 135. The new signal was also installed at the intersection of State Road 37 and County Line Road in 2014. Flashing yellow lights were also installed at 12 intersections along six major highways in Marion County, including U.S. 31, State Road 37 and State Road 135 on the southside in 2015.
In some instances, the new signals simply replace instructions to yield to make a left turn on a green light. In other cases, it has opened up more chances for drivers to make a left turn at a backed up intersection where they didn’t previously have the option to make a left turn without a turn arrow.
What drivers are being told to do — yield to oncoming traffic before making a left turn — hasn’t changed. The only difference is in the directions they are being given to do it, state officials said. The new signal is often accompanied by a sign explaining how drivers should travel through the intersection.
Franklin resident Phillip Kelly said he wondered about what the change meant at first but said he thinks it now makes it more clear that drivers can make the left turn when the road is clear.
The flashing yellow light is meant to emphasize the importance of yielding to incoming traffic. Data has shown that these new signals reduce accidents stemming from left turns by providing clearer instructions, Lowther said.
Drivers should expect to see more of these signals across Johnson County on state roads when work is being done at an intersection, she said.