Left-turn accidents are frequently severe as they often result in near head-on or T-bone type collisions – often at high speeds.
They can involve multiple vehicles and significant injury or death. Because of the frequency and severity of left-turn accidents, you should educate your drivers annually on left-turn hazards and ways to prevent them.
Key training principles to be covered should include:
Turning at intersections with green left-turn arrows
When determining fault for intersection accidents the first question to ask is: who had the right-of-way? When a driver has a green arrow, they have the right-of-way. This is the safest situation as oncoming traffic has a red light.
When a driver has options as to where they can turn left, best practice is to choose an intersection with a green left-turn arrow. Route planners should make this a primary consideration when creating designated routes.
Understanding yellow turn arrows
The introduction of flashing yellow arrows in many states over the last 10 years has created confusion for many drivers. Make sure your drivers understand the differences between these caution lights:
Steady yellow arrow: light is about to turn red
Only finish a turn that has already been started if there is an adequate gap in traffic. Flashing yellow arrow (new): Use extreme caution as oncoming traffic has a green light and full right-of-way. Most left-turn crashes occur at the end of a green light when the light changes to yellow and drivers turn, assuming oncoming traffic will stop.
Who wants to miss a light and wait for another series of light changes? So, maybe that’s why you move to the middle of the intersection feeling, at a minimum, you can race through the turn when the light turns yellow. This can be extremely dangerous because:
Issue: “Oncoming drivers may have the same intention and not stop”
If the light turns red while waiting, you must turn against a red light or back up, both extremely dangerous and illegal maneuvers. You should understand the importance of not moving into the intersection until there is an adequate gap in traffic to completely make the turn safely. You should not wait in the middle of an intersection!
Issue: “Judging distances and obstructed views”
Left-turn collisions often occur when the turning driver misjudges the speed or distance of oncoming traffic, or their view is obstructed by oncoming vehicles waiting to turn left.
Before making a left turn, drivers should always use caution by ensuring the gap in traffic is large enough. Poor judgement often involves:
• Drivers not increasing the gap needed for faster speeds limits, often using the same gap for all speeds. Believing larger objects are not moving as fast as smaller vehicles. This phenomenon is referred to as speed-size illusion; larger vehicles appear to be moving slower than they really are. The speed-size illusion is often a factor in train/vehicle or semi-truck/vehicle collisions when a driver
thinks the train or semi is moving slower than it is.
• If the view is obstructed by another oncoming vehicle, wait until the vehicle has passed or turned.
In 2019, 41% of motorcycle fatalities involved a vehicle turning left into an oncoming motorcycle. It’s hard to judge a motorcycle’s speed or distance from an intersection and they are easily obstructed by other vehicles.
Multiple left-turn lanes
When making a turn at an intersection with multiple left turn lanes, larger vehicles and vehicles with trailers should use the lane furthest to the right. This lane provides the largest turn radius, thus affording more room to make the turn. The far-right turn lane also allows a driver to easily monitor the location of vehicles turning next to them as there are fewer blind spots.
Importance of turn signals
Turn signals perform an important function by notifying others of a driver’s intention. Not using a turn signal when required will often increase a driver’s liability in an accident, even if it is not a major causal factor, as they have violated the law.
Elimination of distractions
Intersections are complicated, with multiple changing variables: oncoming and cross traffic, pedestrians, bicyclists, changing traffic signals, etc. A driver must be 100% focused visually and cognitively when navigating any intersection.
Pedestrians and cyclists are often struck at intersections when a driver is distracted
When drivers are distracted, they often drive with the flow of traffic, relying on the movement of other vehicles in their periphery to indicate when it is time to proceed. Blindly following a vehicle through an intersection is very dangerous.
Right-of-way is an interesting concept. A green light may give you the right-of-way at an intersection, but you shouldn’t count on other drivers or pedestrians to correctly understand and follow traffic light controls.
When approaching an intersection with a green light a driver should:
• Scan sidewalks for pedestrians and bicyclists
• Scan traffic for signs a vehicle might not stop
• Anticipate the light being “stale”, or about to turn to yellow, then red
Before proceeding after YOUR light changes, ensure that all cross traffic has stopped and pedestrians have made it through the intersection.
Practice Situational Awareness –– the skill of seeing what is happening around you and taking precautions:
• “That car may pull out in front of me, I should cover my brake”
• “That jogger may try to cross against the light, I need to wait before proceeding”
• “That truck is going too fast to stop, I better brake”
You — and each one of your drivers — want to drive defensively. Adjusting your driving to protect yourselves
from the mistakes of others not only avoids costly accidents but helps us get you very competitive rates, as well.