Safety and Operations Guidance for Using Time-of-Day Protected-Permissive Left-Turn Phasing Using Flashing Yellow Arrows

Report No: 19-R10

Published in 2018

About the report:

Selection of the left-turn phasing mode is a significant decision for the safe and efficient movement of left-turning traffic at signalized intersections. Because of different safety and operational effects associated with the signal left-turn mode, the two must be evaluated concurrently and be balanced based on capacity and crash potential when protected-only, permissive-only, and protected-permissive left-turn (PPLT) phasing modes are compared. The choice between left-turn phasing modes can be made on a time-of-day basis so that changing traffic conditions are accommodated appropriately. The purpose of this study was to define guidance that field traffic engineers can use to select the appropriate left-turn mode based on prevailing traffic conditions by time of day. In particular, guidance on the use of PPLT or permissive-only with flashing yellow arrows (FYAs) to indicate permissive movements was of interest to the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT).

Prior to the development of time-of-day guidance, the overall safety effects of converting between left-turn phase modes and indications (or displays) needed to be explored. The study examined the impact of converting from a circular “green ball” display for the permissive portion of PPLT phasing to the FYA signal indication and converting from protected-only phasing to PPLT with FYA. To quantify these conversions, a before-after evaluation of signal conversions was performed using standard Bayesian methods to develop crash modification factors from field data for 28 intersections in Virginia. For these intersections, the expected crash reduction after conversion from PPLT to PPLT-FYA was estimated as 12 percent (total crashes), 14 percent (fatal and injury crashes), and 30 percent (angle crashes), which was consistent with results from previous studies.

In evaluating different left-turn phasing modes on a time-of-day basis, crash risk, left-turn conflicts, and capacity prediction models for permissive-only and PPLT modes were developed using simulation data. A total of 750 unique scenarios based on different combinations of intersection characteristics, traffic signal parameters, and traffic volumes were simulated in VISSIM, and trajectory files were processed using Surrogate Safety Assessment Model software to determine the number of conflicts per scenario. Based on the outputs of the simulation models, prediction models for determining left-turn capacities and the expected number of left-turn conflicts per hour per 100 left-turning vehicles were created using multiple linear regression. A final model predicting the average crash risk per hour based on the predicted number of conflicts was developed. The three models created were incorporated into a single spreadsheet tool that can be used by VDOT engineers in determining phasing mode on a time-of-day basis.

Disclaimer Statement:The contents of this report reflect the views of the author(s), who is responsible for the facts and the accuracy of the data presented herein. The contents do not necessarily reflect the official views or policies of the Virginia Department of Transportation, the Commonwealth Transportation Board, or the Federal Highway Administration. This report does not constitute a standard, specification, or regulation. Any inclusion of manufacturer names, trade names, or trademarks is for identification purposes only and is not to be considered an endorsement.

Last updated: November 10, 2023

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