Vehicle crashes at intersections continue to be at the top of all statistical data analyzing the frequency of on-road crashes. According to the data from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS), about 45% of an estimated 5.8 million crashes that occurred in the United States were intersection-related incidents. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has reported that most intersection crashes may be attributed to drivers’ inattention while crossing over at intersections, turning with obstructed views, misjudgment of oncoming drivers’ speeds while turning left and a false assumption of others’ actions while turning right. The Agency also reports that more than 40% of pedestrian accidents occur at intersections.
Points of Conflict
Intersection crashes occur because these are the locations where two or more roads cross each other and activities such as turning left, crossing over and turning right have the potential for conflicts resulting in crashes. Even at controlled intersections with traffic lights, stop signs and crosswalks, drivers face dangers from every direction. Other drivers running red lights to your right and left, oncoming traffic turning in front of you, pedestrians in crosswalks or stepping off curbs into your path, traffic stopping suddenly in front of you, all present multiple hazard situations and demand your full attention.
Your first duty as you approach an intersection is to stay alert to what is going on around you. Keep your eyes moving ahead, left, right and left again. Note whether a traffic light has been green for some time and whether the “Don’t Walk” signs are flashing, indicating your light is getting ready to change from green to red. Cover your brake as you approach to help you slow down and give you extra time to react if something goes wrong. If you are stopped at a red light and it turns green, pause for a second or two before proceeding to help defend against drivers who run their red light and pedestrians either crossing at the last minute or who may be distracted with cell phones or other electronic devices.
Leave Room To Maneuver
Make sure you have enough room between you and a vehicle stopped ahead of you at an intersection. If that vehicle breaks down when the light turns green, you will be able to move around it without having to back up in traffic. When making turns at intersections, be prepared to come to a full stop, especially on a crowded street where pedestrians are present. Pedestrians in crosswalks, either in front of you when turning right or in your blind spots when turning left, could present a conflict. Oncoming traffic can also be dangerous if you’re not alert or underestimate the speed of vehicles coming at you. Slow down or stop until you are sure it’s safe to proceed. Finally, when it’s legal to turn right on red or when you come to a stop sign, come to a full stop before proceeding. It just makes good safety sense.