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Yellow lights raise subject of defensive driving

A motor accident Friday was attributed to a flashing yellow arrow


An accident at an intersection on the west end of Sandy has officials cautioning drivers to be defensive.

On the morning of Friday, May 2, an accident at Highway 26 and 362nd Drive slowed traffic coming into Sandy off the highway. A van at the intersection’s flashing yellow arrow failed to yield when making a left turn onto 362nd and collided with an oncoming truck.

The woman was taken to the hospital with minor injuries. Responding Sandy Police Officer Jesse Steffanson said the woman decided to get checked out just in case.

From 2008 and 2012, there were 33 crashes within 150 feet of the intersection.

Steffanson said that area has so many accidents because “everybody’s in a great big hurry to get to the store.”

About a year ago, the Oregon Department of Transportation installed flashing yellow arrows at three intersections on Highway 26 on the west end of town. A flashing yellow arrow allows a left turn while yielding to oncoming traffic.

Don Hamilton, ODOT spokesman, said the arrows help move traffic more smoothly but come with specific responsibilities for motorists.

The problem with the arrow at the 362nd Drive intersection is that drivers are turning in front of cars that may reach speeds of 55 mph coming off the highway.

“Judging the arrival of oncoming traffic can be difficult when its moving at high speeds,” Hamilton said.

Sandy Deputy Fire Chief Phil Schneider said he has been to at least two calls on accidents involving the flashing yellow arrow since it was installed.

Schneider says the light has a plus side. “Some people really love it, otherwise that turn lane gets really backed up,” he said.

Steffanson said he doesn’t think accidents are the fault of the flashing yellow light. Instead, accidents are mostly caused when cars making a left-hand turn cross into the intersection too soon, he said.

“Whether they are trying to assure they make the turn on that round or just are really not understanding, I don’t know,” said Steffanson.

Once the car is in the intersection, it’s a rush to make sure it doesn’t get stuck when crossing traffic gets a turn to go.

“I think our yellow lights are way too short,” said Steffanson. He often follows yellow lights on the cautious side, not wanting to risk being in the intersection when crossing traffic gets a green light.

“People have to be alert,” Schneider said. “We see a lot of people running lights.”

Schneider advised drivers to look both ways, and drive defensively, even if their light is green.

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