PORTLAND - It's something drivers do millions of times a day around the world - they make a left hand turn on a flashing yellow arrow.
But a new study by transportation engineers Oregon State University shows that when drivers do that, pedestrians are at risk.
Engineers used a full-scale driving simulator to test driver’s behaviors when making "permitted" left hand turns. That’s when a flashing yellow arrow allows drivers to turn left when there's a gap in the oncoming traffic.
High-tech goggles used infrared beams to track the drivers eye movements to see exactly where they were looking.
The engineers found about four-to-nine percent of the time, drivers did not even look at pedestrians who were crossing the street, even when they were in a crosswalk with a walk signal.
“In general, drivers spent most of their attention finding a gap in the conflicting vehicular movements and looking at the traffic light,” said David Hurwitz, an assistant professor of transportation engineering at OSU.
Washington County asked Oregon State to do the study after receiving a number of complaints from concerned pedestrians.
The county has since changed its lights, so that the left turn arrow turns red when a pedestrian hits the button for the crossing signal.