Intersections are dangerous places for motorists, cyclists and pedestrians. The movement of traffic in opposing directions creates the constant risk of a wreck. Thousands of collisions every year occur at intersections across the United States, and many of these collisions have the same underlying causes.
With rare exceptions, collisions at intersections are often the fault of a driver who does something unsafe or violates a traffic law. In fact, two specific causes often overlap and lead to preventable collisions at major intersections.
1. A left-hand turn
According to an analysis of what maneuvers people perform before collisions, 61% of intersection crashes involve at least one vehicle turning left. The driver who completes the turn might not abide by traffic laws, or other drivers approaching the intersection may not stop and yield as they should.
Especially when there isn’t a designated light for left-hand turns and the flow of traffic is heavy, these seemingly basic maneuvers may drastically increase someone’s likelihood of a crash. The installation of roundabouts is one way that local authorities have reacted to the risk related to left-hand turns.
2. Inadequate surveillance
The number one reason that people cause crashes at intersections based on their self-reported mistakes prior to the crash is inadequate surveillance. Roughly 44% of crashes at intersections are the result of inadequate surveillance. In other words, motorists failed to properly monitor their surroundings before proceeding through the intersection. Another 8% of crashes resulted from drivers wrongly assuming what someone else at an intersection would do.
Some people may pick up their phone at a four-way stop and then not check again before moving forward. Others may fail to pause as they should before completing a turn, which might mean they end up directly in front of an approaching vehicle that illuminated its turn signal at the last moment.
The combination of poor environmental awareness and potentially-dangerous traffic maneuvers contributes to a large number of the collisions that occur each year at intersections. Understanding and avoiding the top causes of motor vehicle crashes at intersections can help individual motorists to make safer choices on their next drive.