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General Card #1001
How is the Yellow Interval Determined for a Signalized Intersection?
Updated: 10/14/2022 3:18 PM by Michael Johnson
Reviewed: 10/14/2022 3:18 PM by Michael Johnson
A module examining the theories and assumptions behind the yellow light calculation, and exploring possible modifications.
This is a learning module for an introductory transportation engineering course for junior-level civil engineering students.  The topic of this learning module is the timing of a signalized intersection, more specifically, how the duration of the yellow interval is calculated.  Through storytelling, class discussion, and an individual research project, students analyze the theories and assumptions (together with their implications) behind the yellow duration calculation, investigate contrarian proposals to current practice, and explore additional possible solutions.

Module Overview

This learning module includes lectures, homework, and an individual research project. The materials are available in the Folder's section.  In the description below, connections will be made to the Entrepreneurial Mindset (The 3C's) and the Engineering Skill Set through color-coded inline comments wherever applicable.  References to files are marked with square bracket [ ].

  • Lectures
    1. A technical lecture on dilemma zone concepts and the yellow interval formula published by the Institute for Transportation Engineers (ITE) is first delivered to students through LIVE (face-to-face or remote) instruction at the beginning of the module.  The lecture features 1) storytelling of personal encounters of running the yellow light {CURIOSITY}, 2) guided discussions on relevant formulas {DESIGN}, and 3) stage-setting for the research project {CURIOSITY}.  Please see the notes in the [Slides] file for lecture tips.  The background story (multiple [Background] articles) of the research project can be found in folder "Research Project". A prerequisite concept of this lecture is the Stopping Sight Distance calculation. This lecture generally takes about 30 - 45 minutes.
    2. A second lecture on EM is delivered after students have submitted a draft of their research paper.  The purpose of this lecture is to introduce EM concepts and EM@FSE indicators (see Assessing EM below), and to walk students through the assessment rubric of the research project.  The [Poster] of KEEN Framework is used for this lecture. This lecture generally takes about 30 - 45 minutes.
  • Homework
    The homework is designed for students to apply the concepts and formulae introduced in the first lecture to solve transportation engineering problems related to yellow interval and dilemma zone in a simplified setting {DESIGN}.  A sample problem is provided in [Homework].
  • Research Project
    The goal of this project is to further examine the theories and the calculation of yellow interval, to develop a deeper understanding of the assumptions employed, and to explore possible modifications.  Students are asked to explore a few recent [Reference] articles challenging the ITE yellow interval formula {CONNECTION}, and write a report explaining the theories and assumptions behind the formula {CURIOSITY}{CONNECTION} and exploring possible modifications {OPPORTUNITY}{DESIGN}.  The [Project Description] explains learning objectives, provides a general structure for the student report, and lays out all deliverables and the required elements.

Assessing EM

As part of the KEEN efforts in the Fulton Schools of Engineering (FSE) at Arizona State University (ASU), the [EM@FSE Indicators] are adopted to assess EM outcomes.  A more detailed explanation of these EM@FSE indicators and how they relate to [ABET+EM@FSE Outcomes] can be found in  [EM@FSE Indicators Explained].

Following the EM@FSE indicators, two sets of [Grading Rubric] for the research project are developed (see folder "Research Project").

  • The first set is for the research paper (both the draft and the final submission) itself.  This set of rubrics include four categories: general report writing, synthesizing technical information {CONNECTION}, exploration of different ideas {CURIOSITY}{CONNECTION}{DESIGN}{OPPORTUNITY}, and addressing feedback. 
  • The second set is for the peer review report. It should be noted that students are asked to comment on other students' proposed solutions as part of the peer review. The peer review rubric specifically asks students to suspend initial judgement of new ideas, and to provide meaningful and constructive feedback to help the student author revise and improve her arguments for her proposed ideas {CURIOSITY}{CONNECTION}{DESIGN}{OPPORTUNITY}.
It should also be noted that the language of the the grading rubrics are customized for this course.  Comments are left in the rubric documents, referencing to the [EM@FSE Indicators].
Learning Objectives

The following EM@FSE indicators are targeted.

a. Critically observes surroundings to recognize opportunity
b. Explores multiple solution paths
c. Gathers data to support and refute ideas
d. Suspends initial judgement on new ideas
g. Applies technical skills/knowledge to the development of a technology/product
h. Modifies an idea/product based on feedback
i. Focuses on understanding the value proposition of a discovery
m. Articulates the idea to diverse audiences
n. Persuades why a discovery adds value from multiple perspectives (technological, societal, financial, environmental, etc.)
q. Integrates/synthesizes different kinds of knowledge

The readers are referred to the folder "Research Project" and the files therein for course / module specific learning objectives.

Instructor Tips
  • Storytelling is a crucial part of the first lecture.  This is often when students get intrigued and start to become curious about the topic.  There will usually be some excellent stories of running yellow lights from students that will still be talked about long after the class has ended.
  • The timing of the second lecture can be flexible.  In the author's opinion, it would be more effective to wait until students are halfway into the project to introduce the KEEN framework, if students are new to EM.  Students will be better able to relate the EM concepts to the class activities that they have already performed. To an audience who have been exposed to EM before, then maybe at the beginning of the semester would be a better option to refresh students' memories and to tie in with additional course content / activities that are related to EM.
  • Homework problems can also be given as a hands-on in-class activity.
  • Peer review is an integral part of the research project.  The peer review process forces students to read and understand the grading rubric, and leads to students reflecting on their own research paper.  This is also where critical thinking starts to pick up.
  • Demonstrate constant curiosity about our changing world
  • Explore a contrarian view of accepted solution
  • Integrate information from many sources to gain insight
  • Perform Technical Design
  • Analyze Solutions
  • Identify Opportunity
Categories & Tags
  • Classroom & Courses
  • Civil Engineering
This content was created through the author’s work with the Kern Entrepreneurial Engineering Network (KEEN).
The author would like to thank Drs. Gary Lichtenstein and Keith Hjelmstad for their valuable inputs during the development of this course module and KEEN card.
You will find the following in this folder: 1) slides for Lecture 1; 2) sample homework problem; and 3) the KEEN Framework poster used for Lecture 2.
Title Type Ext Date Size Download All Downloads
[Slides] Yellow Interal and Dilemma Zone Presentation .pptx 5/12/2020 912.1 KB 891
[Homework] Sample Problem Activity / Handout .docx 5/12/2020 16.5 KB 866
[Poster] KEEN Framework Presentation 5/12/2020 -  
You will find the following in this folder: 1) - 3) background story articles to set the stage for the research project; 4) project description file; 5) grading rubric for draft and final research paper; 6) peer review instruction and grading rubric; and 6) - 7) the reference articles that students are asked to review.
Title Type Ext Date Size Download All Downloads
[Background] Jarlstrom Story 1 Journal / Article .pdf 5/12/2020 239.9 KB 729
[Background] Jarlstrom Story 2 Journal / Article .pdf 5/12/2020 154.6 KB 679
[Background] Jarlstrom Story 3 Journal / Article .pdf 5/12/2020 166.2 KB 695
[Project Description] Instructions Activity / Handout .docx 5/12/2020 25.4 KB 750
[Grading Rubric] for Research Paper Assessment / Rubric .docx 9/27/2020 27.1 KB 721
[Grading Rubric] for Peer Review Report Assessment / Rubric .docx 5/14/2020 448.3 KB 711
[Reference] Ceccarelli and Shovlin 2015 Journal / Article .pdf 5/12/2020 1.1 MB 866
[Reference] Jarlstrom 2014 Journal / Article .pdf 5/12/2020 368.3 KB 709
You will find the following in this folder: 1) ABET+EM@FSE Outcomes; 2) EM@FSE Indicators; and 3) EM@FSE Coverage Explained.
Title Type Ext Date Size Download All Downloads
[ABET+EM@FSE] Outcomes Assessment / Rubric .pdf 5/12/2020 191.2 KB 714
[EM@FSE] Indicators Only Assessment / Rubric .pdf 5/12/2020 34.6 KB 779
[EM@FSE] Indicators Explained Assessment / Rubric .pdf 5/12/2020 667.8 KB 711