City planners take measures when designing intersections to prevent intersection crashes from happening. Despite these measures, these crashes have claimed countless lives over the years.
Most people might argue that left-turn accidents take place due to driver negligence in obeying traffic rules. While that may be the case for most accidents, it doesn’t explain cases where the drivers did their best to comply with set regulations.
This begs the question, what’s the troubling link between left turns and motor vehicle accidents? Read on as we delve into some of the most common causes of left-turn accidents and what you can do to protect yourself.
Why Are Left Turns So Dangerous?
Left-turn accidents account for nearly 22.2% of all motor accidents, with most of them occurring at intersections. In such cases, the accidents involve turning into oncoming traffic or crossing traffic in areas where drivers have a limited view of oncoming traffic or pedestrians crossing the road.
Here are some of the most common causes of left turn accidents.
Intersections don’t have the best visibility. Buildings along the roads limit your visibility to what’s in front of you, leaving you oblivious to any dangers lurking on the perpendicular roads on your right and left.
Additionally, larger vehicles like trucks and buses may make it harder to see around corners. Pedestrians may also obstruct your view, especially when crossing against a light.
While there’s no sure way to avoid obstructions at an intersection, you can safeguard yourself by staying vigilant and ready in case of an emergency. You can also delay your turn to let any obstructions pass before moving.
Motorists Underestimating the Speed of Oncoming Traffic
One of the biggest mistakes drivers make when making turns is underestimating the speed of oncoming traffic. You may think you have plenty of time to make a turn, only to find yourself in the middle of the road with a vehicle hurling towards you. In such cases, you rarely have enough time to react. Any miscalculation in your reaction may further aggravate the seriousness of the potential accident.
Maintaining total situational awareness is the best way to avoid such a situation. Essentially, you should take note of all vehicles coming from the opposite direction, the speed at which they’re coming, and whether there’s adequate distance between you and them. Doing so helps you make a safe turn without compromising your safety.
Turning Across Traffic
If you’re turning left, the chances are you’re crossing traffic. Despite your best efforts, other motorists may be oblivious to your intentions or may not have adequate time to react, leading to an accident.
To minimize the risks, ensure there are no oncoming vehicles before making the turn. You should also use your blinker, preferably much earlier, to signal your intention to turn.
Poor Weather Conditions
Left turn accidents aren’t always attributed to driver negligence. Sometimes, nature plays a major role in causing them. In fact, approximately 21% of all road accidents are weather-related. Certain weather conditions, like rain or snow, make it incredibly difficult to see oncoming traffic. Wet or icy roads can also increase your braking distance considerably, making it difficult to control your vehicle.
The best thing to do in such situations is to seek an alternative route where you don’t have to take a left turn. Alternatively, you can slow your vehicle down to make it easier to control, but that would leave you at the mercy of oncoming traffic.
How to Make a Left Turn Safely
Besides the danger posed by oncoming traffic, the different procedures for making a left turn make them even more challenging. For optimum safety, you should only make a left turn when it’s legal and safe. As such, you should always check for signals that may prohibit or restrict left turns when approaching an intersection.
While you’re at it, you should watch out for:
● Oncoming traffic from your right and left
● Pedestrians at the crosswalk
● Traffic approaching from the opposite direction
● Any structures established at the intersection or vehicles blocking the intersection
Additionally, you should never enter an intersection if:
● It is not safe to do so
● The intersection is blocked
● There is any traffic backed up in the lane you wish to enter
Making a Left Turn at a Green Light
A green light at an intersection typically indicates that it’s safe to move into the intersection. That said, you should always watch out for pedestrians and oncoming traffic. Once you verify that it is safe, you can move into the intersection to the right of the directional oncoming lane.
If the light turns red or yellow while you’re at the intersection, you should watch for any oncoming traffic to ensure it is slowing down or stopping. Never assume that the other motorists follow traffic rules, as some may try to race the amber light.
Making a Left Turn From a Two-Way Street to Another Two-Way Street
The sheer volume of vehicles on busy two-way streets and the complexity of road design can be quite confusing for any inexperienced driver trying to make a left turn. However, the process is quite similar to turning on a one-way street.
When turning from a two-way street to another two-way street, you should first check for road signs and oncoming traffic. Then, enter the intersection to the right of the directional dividing line and turn to the left of the center of the intersection.
The Bottom Line
Making a left turn can be tricky. You have to accurately judge the speed and distance of oncoming traffic and consider the possibility that other motorists may try to run the red right or fail to give you the right of way.
However, with a little vigilance and situational awareness, you can safely make a left turn at the busiest intersections. Consider the tips mentioned above to guarantee your safety on the road.