Most people naturally become cautious as they approach an intersection while operating vehicles. They know that the chance of a crash is a serious concern when they must share space with other vehicles traveling in different directions.
The average person will slow down and try to monitor their surroundings a bit more cautiously near an intersection to minimize the risk of a collision. Unfortunately, those efforts do not always protect someone from a wreck. Other drivers may not be as cautious, and small decisions can lead to catastrophic outcomes. The choices that people make regularly while in traffic can expose them to significant collision risk. One common maneuver, in particular, has a strong association with intersection collisions.
Left-hand turns precede many collisions
Turning left is often the fastest way to reach a specific destination. However, it exposes the vehicle turning to every other oncoming lane of traffic. Even if the person turning left is very cautious, others approaching the intersection could try to run a red light or have their phones in their hands. They may fail to observe their surroundings and could proceed directly through the intersection, causing a crash.
Approximately 61% of motor vehicle collisions at intersections occur when at least one vehicle involved attempts to turn left. Although the driver turning left isn’t automatically at fault for the crash, they will very likely have property damage losses and possibly injuries to address after a collision. Avoiding a wreck is always preferable to holding someone else accountable after the fact.
How can this information help drivers?
Obviously, motorists cannot simply forgo turning left forever. It is sometimes necessary to turn left even in heavy traffic. However, it is often possible to adjust one’s route to avoid a left-hand turn.
Going an extra block and circling back could allow someone to complete multiple right-hand turns instead of a left-hand turn. Prioritizing routes with designated left-hand turn lights could also be a safer alternative to simply turning left at a four-way stop or busy intersection.
When making a left turn, ensuring that oncoming traffic comes to a complete stop before attempting the turn can significantly decrease the danger. Do not assume that the other driver is going to stop.
A big factor in left turn accidents is what color the light was in all parties’ directions at the time of the accident. And along with that, it is most important to try and find witnesses at the scene who can support your contentions that you had a green arrow at the time of the turn. Without witnesses, it becomes a he said, she said fight with both parties saying they had the right away. So if you can get a favorable witness corroborating your version of events, it can be much easier to make a case.
Ultimately, understanding what choices increase crash risk may help people stay safer on the roads.