By the looks of things, drivers in Plymouth — and probably other places, too — could use a crash course on how to navigate intersections governed by flashing yellow turn arrows.I don't go through that area much, if ever -- it's probably been a good ten years since I have, but it's easy to understand why there's a problem. It's often difficult to gauge the speed of oncoming traffic in the suburbs, because the posted speed limits often don't have much to do with reality. You don't necessarily know whether the oncoming traffic is coming at you at 35 MPH or 45 MPH. In my area, County Road D/37th Avenue NE tends to have a lot of traffic, but it's often coming more slowly than you think (sometimes less than 30 MPH), while the speeds on Old Highway 8 tend to be faster (often closer to 50 MPH). It's especially tough to make a left turn from Foss Road onto Old Highway 8, which gets a lot of overflow traffic from 35W. That intersection, a T-style intersection, does not have any traffic control other than a stop sign and you can end up waiting as long as 4-5 minutes to make that turn during rush hour. You also have several apartment buildings on Old Highway 8 with people impatiently trying to get out of their parking lots, so making that left-hand turn has been a white knuckle affair for the 20 years I've lived in the area.
This comes after an analysis by Plymouth police found that nearly 50 percent of crashes at the intersection of Rockford Road and Fernbrook Lane were the result of drivers not yielding to oncoming traffic when flashing yellow arrows were operating.
Between March 10, 2016 and Feb. 22, officer Scott Kirchner said there were 34 crashes at the busy intersection, and 16 were attributed to motorists failing to yield. The intersection handles 21,000 vehicles a day, according to a 2013 traffic count by the Hennepin County Transportation Department. Of those drivers, 4,093 make left turns. Keep in mind those counts were taken four years ago so the numbers are probably higher.
The idea of a flashing yellow is to stop the backups at intersections, but it doesn't necessarily work. The linked Star Tribune article suggests one reason:
Impatience might be a factor, too. [Plymouth police officer Scott Kirchner] said drivers waiting to turn at the intersection have had motorists behind them honk.We have more need for traffic control than ever before. We don't spend as much money on roads as we could, because we spend a lot of transportation money on other things. I don't have time to rehearse those arguments this morning, but we need to think more about how we move people and goods through our communities.
“They hear that horn and think it’s my turn and go without thinking,” Kirchner said. “There is the pressure and they think maybe I can make this gap.”