New “permissive left” signals aim to curb accidents at Route 1 intersections

The new “permissive left” signal at the intersection of Route 1, Russell Road and Reddick Avenue. (Erika Christ photo)

Aldi shoppers and other northbound Richmond Highway drivers making a left turn onto Russell Road may have noticed the updated traffic light with a flashing yellow arrow, which became operational on March 6.

Known as a “permissive left,” the signal has been shown to be safer than a standard green light for left-turning drivers, according to Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) officials. The flashing yellow arrow instinctively makes drivers slow down and yield to oncoming traffic instead of proceeding less cautiously into the turn, reducing the chances of an accident.

Southbound highway drivers making a left onto Reddick Avenue have a similar flashing yellow arrow signal.

Another “permissive left” was installed earlier this year at the intersection of Richmond Highway and Popkins Lane, and more are likely on the way, according to VDOT. 

“As traffic signals are rebuilt for maintenance or new traffic signals are installed, the five-section signal heads will be replaced with signal heads that have the flashing yellow arrows,” said VDOT spokeswoman Kathleen Leonard. “So as time goes forward, you will gradually see fewer five-section signal heads and more flashing yellow arrows.”

Another brand-new traffic light that’s still under wraps has been spotted on the Fairfax County Parkway near the entrance of the future National Museum of the U.S. Army.

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