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Thursday, Jan 30 2014 02:24 PM

'First Look': Traffic engineer talks about yield lights, pedestrian safety

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    Ryan Starbuck, city of Bakersfield traffic engineer, talks about traffic lights and road safety on "First Look with Scott Cox."

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Simulcast host Scott Cox would rather yield at a left turn than wait patiently in his car for the light to turn green.

"There is nobody coming the other way for a thousand miles, but I have to sit there and wait for the whole light to cycle through so that mine can then turn green and then I can turn left," Cox said Thursday on "First Look with Scott Cox."

Bakersfield experimented with left-turn yield lights before, but there were too many accidents so they were pulled.

"We had three or four locations around town where we had those and just had too many accidents so we had to pull the yield and put the standard green arrow," said Ryan Starbuck, city of Bakersfield traffic engineer for 17 years who talked with Cox about traffic on the show.

Protective lefts produce long traffic delays, and the city must balance safety and good traffic flow.

With the left-yield signs, the most problematic time of the day was during the morning and afternoon commute.

"There is just too much traffic," Starbuck said. "And the protective lefts were just necessary to keep people from the broadside accidents."

The broadside accidents -- or T-bone collisions -- are the most severe accidents the city tries to prevent.

Along with traffic lights, pedestrian crossing signs go hand in hand with the safe and consistent traffic flow the city's after.

Currently, pedestrian crossing signs have a red hand for "stop" and a person outlined in green for "go." But this aid has not been effective, so a new approach is on its way.

"Pedestrian countdown signals have shown to reduce pedestrian accidents," Starbuck said.

In Bakersfield, there are already 20 intersections with countdown signs. Twenty more are going to be put in within the next six months. A federal grant will accommodate an additional 60 signs.

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