Uncontrolled intersections, those without traffic signals, pavement markings, or stop signs can be daunting for drivers. Uncontrolled intersections are typically seen in rural or residential areas. Attention and caution are of upmost importance when approaching these types of intersections, especially when attempting to make a left turn. In this post we will go over some things to keep in mind when approaching the intersection at which you intend to make your left turn. We will also talk about what you should avoid doing in order to keep yourself and other road-users safe.
Left Turns are Complex and Sometimes Dangerous Maneuvers
Because many of us commonly make left turns during our commutes or other trips, we often forget that they are particularly risky. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the majority of accidents that occur at intersections involve left turns. This is especially concerning when it comes to uncontrolled intersections, as the safeguards provided by signals that indicate a clear right of way are absent.
Things to Keep in Mind when Approaching an Uncontrolled Left Turn
- The Full Stop
The absence of stop signs may cause drivers to assume that they can proceed through the intersection without stopping. In fact, it is still important to come to a stop prior to completing your left turn in order to notice any hazards that might be obstructed. Additionally, coming to a full stop can allow for communication with other vehicles in order to avoid a collision.
- Yield to Oncoming Traffic
Once you have stopped at the intersection, be sure to look out for oncoming traffic. Like many controlled intersections, uncontrolled intersections require you to yield to oncoming traffic. Be aware that oncoming traffic may not. Oncoming traffic may be closer or moving faster that they appear, so make sure you have plenty of room prior to attempting the turn.
- Look Out for Cyclists and Pedestrians
It can not be understated how important it is to keep an eye out for pedestrians and cyclists. Even if there is a gap in oncoming traffic, there may be a pedestrian in your turn path which would require you to yield for longer. At dawn, dusk, or nighttime, it can be particularly hard to see pedestrians and cyclists.
- The Importance of Signaling
It is always important to signal, but it is especially important at uncontrolled intersections. For example, the driver behind you may assume that you plan on proceeding straight through the intersection without slowing down because there is no stop sign. It is important to make it clear that you intend to turn. It is also important that oncoming traffic and pedestrians are aware of your intention to complete a left turn.
- Maintain a Safe Speed
One important word to remember when making a left turn in an uncontrolled intersection is “caution.” Even if you come to a complete stop at the intersection prior to completing your turn, you should still make your turn at a safe speed and be prepared to stop if necessary. Your maneuvers should be careful and intentional so other drivers can predict your actions.
- Consider Road Surface Conditions
Potholes, debris, or uneven surfaces can affect your vehicle’s handling. Because many uncontrolled intersections are in rural areas, you may be faced with a dirt or gravel road. Remember that your vehicle may not have the same traction on different surfaces, and you should adjust your speed and handling accordingly.
- Plan Ahead
If you know that your route requires you to make your left turn at an uncontrolled intersection, it is best to plan on maintaining extra vigilance and caution. When you approach the intersection, be prepared to communicate with other vehicles.
Things to Avoid when Approaching an Uncontrolled Left Turn
- Assuming the Right of Way
A common error at uncontrolled intersections is assuming the right of way when it doesn’t belong to you. Always remember that the driver who arrives first or the driver on the right has the right of way. Do not assume that you can proceed safely until you have a clear sense of the other driver’s intentions. Even if you do have the right of way, other drivers may be confused. In this case, it is important to remember defensive driving techniques.
- Avoid Aggressive Driving
In any case, driving aggressively is risky and poses a danger to other drivers. At uncontrolled intersections, drivers need to be aware of the intentions of other road users. If you choose to approach the intersection aggressively and make your left turn quickly, you risk potentially colliding with another driver who also does not plan on stopping or yielding.
- Avoid Intersection Blocking
One reason that it is important to come to a complete stop prior to completing your turn is to avoid obstructing the intersection. You should only attempt to make your left turn when you are confident it is safe to do so, otherwise you may find yourself stopped in the middle of the intersection blocking other traffic.
- Do Not Neglect Blind Spots
Prior to initiating your left turn, be aware of any obstructions that could be in your blind spot. Other drivers may attempt to pull beside you, or pedestrians could be passing through your blind spot. If you do not check your blind spot, you may be unaware that your turn could pose a danger to others.
- Weather and Hazardous Conditions
Like any other driving scenario, you should adjust your driving as conditions change. If it is raining and visibility is limited, for example, you should reduce your speed when approaching the intersection and completing your maneuver. Failing to do so could cause a collision with another driver who is also struggling with reduced visibility.
A Culture of Safe Driving
Driving safely requires consideration for others on the road. In the case of an uncontrolled intersection, drivers are required to employ extra vigilance. Assuming the right of way, driving too quickly, and general confusion could result in a collision. When completing a left turn at an uncontrolled intersection, remember to keep traffic safety in mind and drive defensively.