Changes to driving rules

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By: Commissioner Robert Weinroth Dist. 4
Special to the Delray Newspaper

Driving on the South Florida roadways always takes ones full attention. However, as the rules of the road are updated (hopefully for the better) residents are encouraged to be cognizant of the changes that have occurred to avoid a traffic citation, or worse.

Florida’s drivers are required to pave the way clear for any emergency and service vehicles plying their routes. In 2017, an estimated 17,000 motorists got slapped with a traffic citation for failing to move over for the first respondents, law enforcers, road rangers, and other utility services workers while on the Florida roads. In 2018, legislation was signed into to law to further improve the safety conditions for the thousands of workers working on the roadsides to repair and maintain our crucial roads.

Also, a new law advanced Florida’s rule against texting while driving by making texting (including messaging, emailing and other forms of typing on a mobile device) a primary violation, rather than a secondary violation. That means you can be stopped and cited solely on suspicion of texting while driving.

In addition, since July, any use of a handheld cell phone while operating a motor vehicle in a designated school crossing or school zone or a road work zone will get you in trouble with the law!

Texting at a stoplight or while stationary is not an offense and emergency personnel are exempted, as are people reporting an emergency or criminal activity to police and those receiving messages related to the navigation or operation of their vehicle or safety-related information such as emergency traffic or weather alerts.

Also new for drivers in Palm Beach County will be the introduction of Flashing Yellow Arrows. The PBC Traffic Division will be activating the first phase of the Flashing Yellow Arrow left-turn traffic signals at eight traffic-signalized intersections along and in the vicinity of Congress Avenue between Golf Road and Gateway Blvd.

Although the Flashing Yellow Arrow traffic signal has been used nationwide for more than 10 years, including at over 100 locations in Florida, the Flashing Yellow Arrow traffic signal is new to Palm Beach County.

The Flashing Yellow Arrow signal indication will replace the traditional solid circular green indication for the following two left-turn signal types:

– Permissive Only where only a solid circular green indication is displayed and motorists must always yield to oncoming traffic and pedestrians before completing the left turn;

– Protected/Permissive which is composed of two parts: a “protected” left-turn phase initiated by a green arrow signal indication where oncoming traffic must stop and it is safe to turn left, followed by a “permissive” part during which a solid circular green signal is displayed and left turning traffic must yield to oncoming traffic.

During the Flashing Yellow Arrow display, drivers turning left must yield to oncoming traffic and/or pedestrians in the crosswalk. The Flashing Yellow Arrow means are you allowed to turn in the direction of the arrow after yielding to all pedestrians in crosswalks and vehicles lawfully within the intersection.

When the flashing yellow arrow is pointing left to allow a left turn or U-turn, you must yield the right-of-way to vehicles approaching from the opposite direction if they are close enough to be an immediate hazard.

You must stop and wait until there is a safe gap.

The meaning of a flashing yellow arrow is sometimes known as an “unprotected turn.” Unlike the green arrow (protected turn), traffic from the opposite direction is not stopped by a red light.

Since authorized in 2009, the USDOT has been implementing flashing yellow lights across the country and left turning car accidents have decreased by 25 percent. You are very likely to see this new signal, nationwide, when engineers install new traffic lights at intersections, making the old yield-on-green sign less common.

Often, new signals with flashing yellow arrows have a regulatory black and white sign saying, “Left Turn Yield on Flashing Yellow Arrow.”

National research has shown that after a short learning period, motorists more easily understand the Flashing Yellow Arrows and it helps improve safety for motorists and pedestrians at signalized intersections.

The Flashing Yellow Arrow also offers motorists more opportunities to make left turns, which reduces wait times and allows for additional traffic signal timing options to enhance traffic signal synchronization..