two cars involved in an accident

When most individuals think of an accident, they often think of rear-end collisions on the interstate due to bumper-to-bumper traffic or a T-bone accident due to someone running a red light. However, one of the most common behaviors that lead to an accident is the simple act of making a left turn. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has reported that 22.2% of collisions at an intersection involved a vehicle turning left

While many of us don’t think about the dangers of turning right, commercial companies do. Popular delivery services, such as UPS, plan their employees’ delivery routes around ensuring that they make the fewest left turns possible.

The car accident attorneys at the Hernandez Law Group, P.C. are dedicated to ensuring that our community understands the risks that are on the road and what they can do to protect themselves and their families. In this article, we will be going over what causes a left-hand turn to be so much more dangerous than a right-hand turn, what driving practices you can use to keep yourself and your family safe, and what to do should you be involved in an accident. Here is more information on the dangers of left-hand turns.

The Hazards Around Making a Left-Hand Turn

The United States Department of Transportation (U.S. DOT) has reported that left turns are one the most dangerous driving maneuvers a driver can make. This is because they have to anticipate multiple elements to ensure that they can make the turn safely. These elements are as follows:

The Vehicle In Front of You Makes a Sudden Stop

If a driver is waiting behind another car to make a left turn, it is safe to assume that the driver in front will only attempt the left turn once it is safe. This often leads drivers to a false sense of security, as they take their eyes away from the driver in front of them to check traffic. If the driver in front suddenly stops and the second driver doesn’t see them do so, it can lead to a rear-end collision

Incorrectly Guessing the Speed of Traffic

Left-hand turns require drivers to make a judgment about the speed of oncoming traffic. The ability to do so correctly is extremely important as an incorrect assessment can lead to a T-bone accident. 

Hernandez Law Group Insight: How to Correctly Judge the Speed of Traffic

A car that has dents in the side due to a sideswipe accident.

It can be difficult to judge whether or not you have enough time to make the turn before oncoming traffic gets to the intersection you are at. To ensure that you can make a safe left-hand turn, you will want to judge the speed of oncoming traffic, giving yourself enough of a window to make the turn safely. To do this, follow these steps:

  • Pick a landmark in the distance that you can see, such as a building or a sign.
  • Next, start counting the seconds it takes a vehicle to get from that landmark to your position
    • For most turns, it takes about ten seconds to make the turn safely
  • Once you figure out how long it takes a vehicle to get to your position, you can then use that to your advantage.
  • Next, wait for a safe gap. For example, if there are two vehicles headed your way but they have a safe distance of 15 seconds between them, you can use a skill called “meeting the gap.”
    • Drive forward as the first vehicle hits the intersection.
      • This will allow your vehicle to pick up speed, reducing the amount of time it takes to make the turn.
    • Finally, wait until the vehicle has safely cleared before turning your wheel and making a left.
      • This should allow you to safely make your turn within the time frame allotted, without resulting in an accident. 

Blind Turns

One of the biggest issues on roads and intersections is blind turns. Sometimes, due to sitting traffic, a large bush, or even poor road conditions such as fog, your view can be obstructed. Left turns depend on your ability to pay attention and judge the speed of oncoming traffic. Blind turns make this even more difficult and require a bit more patience and attentiveness from the driver making the turn.

Traveling Through Unfamiliar Intersections

While it may not always seem like it, drivers are more confident when driving when they have familiarity with the roads they are traveling on. The familiarity helps them better judge the speed and safety of the maneuver they are about to perform. In unfamiliar situations, it can be more difficult to judge hazards, such as left-turn yields or strange set-up of the road’s infrastructure. In unfamiliar areas, it is important to ensure that you are paying extra attention so that you can navigate the turn safely.

Navigating Traffic Lights

Traffic lights are designed to set the pace of traffic. However, many individuals use the yellow light as a warning to speed through the intersection, instead of using caution. Drivers who try to beat the light are at significantly higher risk of getting into an accident, especially if they are making a left-hand turn as it takes them more time to get through the intersection.

What Are Some Ways I Can Reduce the Risk of an Accident?

A sideswipe accident in a parking lot.

While there is no way to eliminate accidents, there are steps that every driver can take to significantly reduce the risk. Here are some things you should keep in mind to make taking a left less dangerous:

  • Whenever possible, make a left-hand turn at intersections that have a signal with a green-left turn arrow. This signal is a guaranteed protected left turn. If the arrow is yellow or flashing, this means that the driver must yield to oncoming traffic.
  • Position your vehicle in the proper lane for turning. The lane closest to the center line is often the best position for a left-hand turn.
  • Always use your turn signal to help other drivers know of your intentions.
  • Look both ways before entering the intersection to ensure that all lanes of oncoming traffic are clear.
  • Always make the turn from the designated turn/left lane. DO NOT try to make a turn from the other lanes. If you are missing your turn, it is best to go down to the next intersection and make a u-turn or allow your GPS to reroute you. Trying to make a turn from the wrong lane is extremely dangerous and significantly increases your chance of being in an accident. 

What If I Was Involved In An Accident?

While we can take actions to keep ourselves safer on the road, not every driver is going to do the same. It is important to understand that when you are in an accident where you are not at fault, you have a legal right to compensation. Do not allow insurance companies or the other party to bully you into taking less than what you deserve or cause you to admit fault when you did everything right. Instead, call the car accident attorneys at the Hernandez Law Group, P.C. Our team works hard to ensure that you are getting the compensation you deserve to cover the cost of medical expenses and damages from your accident. Allow us to focus on your compensation as you focus on recovering from your accident. Contact our team today for more information on our services or to schedule a free no-obligation consultation with one of our caring car accident attorneys.