New traffic signals are lighting up roadways across Texas and they have a slightly different look. Now, transportation officials are warning drivers about the changes they need to be aware of, like the blinking yellow turn signal.
"It's supposed to be less confusing," said Marcus Sandifer, with the Texas Department of Transportation. "They can turn but they have to watch for oncoming traffic."
Sandifer says the new lights, which are located at the two main intersections in Jefferson, are the future of all TxDOT intersections. Here's how they work: the blinking yellow arrow means yield; a green arrow means you have a protected left turn; and the solid yellow arrow means prepare to stop, because the red arrow, which means stop, is approaching. But some drivers say it's not that simple when they first encounter the light.
"It confused me," said Gilberto Lara, a Marshall resident who who works in Jefferson. "I had never seen it turn from yellow, then to flashing and then to green and back to red. This is the first time I've passed by and seen those lights do that. For me right now it's confusing."
And Lara may not be alone. Last year in Waco two wrecks occurred at the new traffic lights there. In one incident, a pickup and SUV collided head on, after the pickup failed to yield at the blinking yellow arrow. And in the other, a woman died when she drove into the path of another vehicle. But, in both cases, it was not clear if the lights contributed to the wrecks at all.
And TxDOT officials say they're confident the new lights are not just easier to understand, but safer too.
"Once they see the signals and see how they work, it's real easy to understand," said Sandifer. "There's going to be a certain learning curve to any new system, but once these systems become more common on our highways then people will understand them better."
The new signals in Jefferson are at the intersections with Highway 59. One is located at FM 2208 and the other is at Highway 49. Both singals began operating last week.
The Federal Highway Administration approved the flashing yellow turn signal back in 2007. Last year, the Texas Highway Commission also approved the new lights and began installing them across the state. These type of lights are already up and running in Waco, Tyler, Arlington, and in other states too.