On this blog, we’ve talked extensively about the risks that left turns pose. Drivers must juggle multiple variables safely in order to make a left turn safely, especially at uncontrolled intersections. For example, drivers must be keenly aware of pedestrians in the crosswalk in front of them. Once the driver has pulled about 40% of the way into the intersection, they must wait for a safe gap in traffic. The driver must be aware of the speed and distance on oncoming traffic in order to take advantage of a safe gap. While doing this, drivers should maintain their awareness of the left-hand intersection to avoid turning when pedestrians are in the cross walk.
In this post, we will talk about some facts and figures that illustrate the potential risks associated with left turns. We will go over some eye=opening statistics that may compel drivers to treat left turns with extra respect.
- Over 53% of cross-traffic crashes involve left turns
There are many instances in driving where you may need to cross the path of oncoming traffic. Four way stops and crossing a busy street come to mind. But did you know that over half of these cross-path accidents involve left turns? According to the NHTSA, 53.1% of cross-traffic accidents occurred during or immediately after a left turn.
- Over 22% of car accidents in general involve left turns
The NHTSA released a report stating that left turns were the “critical event” in almost a quarter of all car accidents. Given the number of accidents that occur on an annual basis, this is truly an astonishing figure. One particularly concerning point is that left turn-accidents are often more severe than other types of accidents.
- Left turns are involved in a quarter of all accidents involving pedestrians
According to NPR, one fourth of all accidents involving pedestrians in the United States occur during the execution of a left turn. Drivers who have a green light without a designated arrow need to remain aware of pedestrians in the intersection, something that some drivers often fail to do. Around 200 pedestrians die each year due to accidents involving a left turn. In fact, in 2019 40% of the traffic deaths in San Francisco were caused by drivers who did not see pedestrians in the crosswalk while executing a left turn, according to Forbes. Many other cities have similar statistics when it comes to the relationship between left turns and traffic deaths.
- Nearly 90% of left turns collisions are the fault of the driver
When it comes to left turn collisions, the driver is almost always at fault. This statistic was taken from a study conducted by the municipality of San Francisco, although similar estimates have been reported for various other big cities in the United States. This is especially alarming, because the NHTSA reports that driver distraction is one of the main reasons for the occurrence of left turn accidents. The fact that so many of the collisions are potentially avoidable should be a wake-up call to those drivers who tend to drive distracted by using their phone or other devices.
- More than a third of all crashes occur at intersections
According to the NHTSA, 36% of all accidents in the United States take place at intersections, with almost half million accidents resulting from left turns annually. Often times, a left turn accident that occurs at an intersection will obstruct traffic either in the intersection or around the intersection. This can be a dangerous situation for drivers who are unable to move their vehicles away from the flow of traffic.
- Traffic “calming” infrastructure can reduce high-speed left turns by 71%
San Francisco has done a lot of research and experimentation to address the dangers of left turns. In an effort to reduce left turn accidents, the city implemented various traffic calming tools. Speed bumps, barriers, and similar infrastructure was installed at intersections to compel drivers to turn at a slower speed. The city found that left turns that occur at speeds faster that 15 miles per hour were reduced by almost three quarters. Making left turns at unsafe speeds remains a leading cause of left turn collisions.
Left turns are some of the most dangerous and complex maneuvers that drivers attempt on a frequent basis. Although making left turns, even at busy intersections, can seems routine, drivers should still remember that left turns require attentiveness and caution. Drivers always approach left turn defensively and remain ready to act if they encounter a hazard.