Protected Left Turns
This is a typical arrangement of signals at an intersection when there is a separate left-turn signal face provided for only left turns.
The signal for protected turns will usually have a steady left-turn red arrow, a steady left-turn yellow-arrow and a steady left turn green arrow. New traffic signals head may also have a fourth signal; the flashing yellow arrow.
Lights facing drivers proceeding straight ahead are often on a separate signal head and display circular lights.
What Does a Green Arrow Appearing with a Red Traffic Light Mean?
Vehicles facing the signal with a green arrow may go ahead into the intersection and may turn only in the direction indicated by the green arrow.
Traffic going straight ahead or turning right will usually see a red light, since vehicles from the opposite direction may also face a green arrow and turn left. Watch for vehicles from opposite direction and make sure you don’t turn wide.
While turning you the green arrow is supposed to protect you from oncoming traffic going straight ahead; they will face a red light.
You must, however, yield the right-of-way to vehicles and pedestrians already in the intersection. Never enter the intersection if it is blocked. The green arrow does not give you the right-of-way.
When the arrow changes to a steady yellow arrow, you should make a safe stop and wait for the next signal. Don’t try to beat a red light or a red arrow.
A flashing yellow arrow has a special meaning. It means that you may turn in the direction of the arrow after yielding to pedestrians and other vehicles in or near the intersection. Oncoming traffic is not stopped by a red signal.
Steady left-turn red arrows usually mean that all turns are prohibited. But laws aren’t the same in all states. Some states allow turning against a red arrow after stopping and yielding.
Shared signal faces for both protected and permissive left turns are also common. At such an intersection you should expect green arrow and circular green being terminated at the same time. Instead of a red arrow, you may face a steady circular red light. The yellow arrow may also be replaced by a circular yellow light.
It is important to be aware of the arrangement at any intersection. A protected turn only means that opposing traffic will face a red light and that pedestrians crossing the lane or lanes used by the protected left-turn movement will face a Don’t Walk signal.
Note: A protected turn does not mean that all other traffic is stopped by a red light.