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8 min read

Understanding the Risks: What Makes a Left Turn Across Traffic Dangerous

Did you know that approximately 22% of motor vehicle collisions in the US are associated with left-hand turns? Those accidents lead to severe injuries or even fatalities.

In this blog post, we will discuss the risks and dangers of a left hand turn accident, factors contributing to these accidents, legal implications, and strategies for safer left turns. We will also explore real-world examples and interactive elements to help you better understand “what makes a left turn across traffic dangerous” and avoid left-turn dangers.

Key Takeaways

  • Left-turns pose a significant risk of car accidents due to misjudgment, failure to yield the right of way, and other factors.
  • Defensive driving techniques and traffic laws are essential for making left turns safely.
  • Real-world examples serve as reminders that left turn car accidents cause serious injuries or fatalities.

The Perils of Left-Turn Accidents

Left-turn accidents are among the most dangerous maneuvers on the road, with the U.S. Department of Transportation National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reporting that they pose the highest risk. A staggering 60% of collisions at a particular intersection were attributed to left-hand turns. Avoiding a left hand turn crash often involves crossing oncoming traffic, judging the speed of other vehicles accurately, and navigating blind spots and visibility issues.

To make a left turn safely, drivers must be aware of multiple potential threats, such as other vehicles, traffic lights, and blind spots. Failure to address these challenges can lead to T-bone crashes and serious injuries or fatalities.

We will now detail the specific perils associated with left-turn accidents.

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Crossing Oncoming Traffic

Crossing oncoming traffic is one of the most significant challenges of making a left turn. Misjudging the speed and distance of oncoming vehicles, failure to yield the right of way, and disobeying traffic signals lead to car accidents. Collisions that frequently occur during left turns include T-bone accidents and head-on collisions.

Factors that impair a driver’s judgment when making a left turn across oncoming traffic include:

  • Misjudging the speed and distance of oncoming vehicles
  • Failing to assess gaps in traffic accurately
  • Being distracted or not paying full attention to the road
  • Making assumptions about the intentions of other drivers
  • Feeling rushed or pressured to make the turn quickly


Judging Speed Correctly

Accurate assessment of the speed of oncoming vehicles plays a key role in executing safe left turns. Misjudging the speed of an oncoming vehicle can result in a T-bone accident. These accidents, also known as side impact or broadside collisions, are highly dangerous and can result in serious injuries or even death.

Drivers can use visual cues to accurately assess the speed of approaching traffic. Cues include taking note of the dashes and spaces that divide the lanes on a paved roadway and paying attention to the spontaneous gaze behavior of oncoming vehicles.


Blind Spots and Visibility

Blind spots and poor visibility make left turns more dangerous. Blind spots refer to the areas that cannot be seen by the driver’s field of vision or through the mirrors. These areas are outside the driver’s line of sight and are hazardous when changing lanes or making turns.

Blind spots may obstruct a driver’s view of oncoming traffic from the left side, potentially resulting in the driver misjudging the speed and distance of approaching vehicles, and thus may lead to a collision when making a left turn.

Factors contributing to poor visibility while driving include reduced visibility conditions such as twilight, darkness, rain, snow, fog, smoke, bright sunshine, and environmental factors like fog, which can occur in the morning or before rainfall.

Poor visibility impedes left turns by reducing the driver’s ability to observe oncoming traffic. This makes it challenging to accurately gauge the speed and distance of approaching vehicles and raises the risk of a collision.

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Factors Contributing to Left-Turn Accidents

Several factors contribute to left-turn accidents, including distracted driving, night driving, and high traffic levels.

We will now examine these factors, explaining how they increase the risk of left-turn accidents.


Distracted Driving

Distracted driving is a significant factor contributing to left-turn accidents. Common distractions leading to left-turn accidents include:

  • Texting or using a smartphone
  • Talking on the phone
  • Changing the audio or music
  • Managing children or pets in the vehicle

Approximately 22% of all car accidents involve a left-turning vehicle, and 53% of all cross-path accidents result from left turns.

Research has demonstrated a correlation between distracted driving and decreased safety, as well as increased driver reaction times to unexpected risks on the road. By minimizing distractions and focusing on the road, drivers significantly reduce the risk of left-turn accidents.


Night Driving

Night driving makes left turns more dangerous due to reduced visibility and increased difficulty in judging distances and speeds. Reduced visibility at night leads to an increased risk of left-turn accidents, as it is difficult to recognize conditions on the road, and the need for focus from the drivers is heightened.

Judging distances and speeds during night driving is more difficult due to the lack of visual cues and reduced visibility. Without adequate lighting, it is harder to accurately perceive distance and judge the position and speed of other vehicles.

Fatigue and drowsiness, more common during nighttime driving, affect the driver’s alertness and reaction time. Tiredness potentially results in poor decision-making when making left turns.

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Heavy Traffic

Heavy traffic makes left turns more challenging, as drivers must use multiple lanes and vehicles while making their turn. In heavy traffic, left-turn accidents occur due to a variety of reasons. Driver impatience and errors arise from the frustration and challenge of turning left. Furthermore, left turns involve entering blind spots, thus increasing the risk of collisions.

In heavy traffic, a driver’s judgment in making a left turn is impacted in various ways. Some factors that affect a driver’s judgment include:

  • The number of vehicles makes it challenging to identify a safe gap in oncoming traffic to make the turn
  • The pressure of other drivers behind leads to hasty decisions and misjudgments
  • The stress and frustration caused by heavy traffic diminishes a driver’s focus and decision-making abilities

Drivers need to remain calm and focused in heavy traffic situations to be safe and pull off accurate left turns.

Legal Implications of Left-Turn Accidents

Legal implications involve determining fault and seeking compensation for victims. In many cases, the driver who executed the left-hand turn that caused the accident is usually liable.

We will now describe the process of establishing fault and the compensation available for victims of left-turn accidents.


Determining Fault

In left-turn accidents, fault is typically determined by a few factors, such as traffic signals, speed, and driver behavior. Police officers at the scene will usually file police reports to establish fault.

Furthermore, the laws stipulate that drivers making left turns must yield to oncoming cars. Thus the at-fault driver is often the left-turning driver. An experienced lawyer also helps verify fault by examining traffic laws and conducting an independent investigation.

Traffic signals, the right of way, the speed of the vehicles, and other traffic violations may be considered when assigning fault in left-turn accidents. Driving at or above the speed limit or at an unsafe speed while making a left turn increases the chances of causing an accident and may be considered when assigning fault.

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Compensation for Victims

Victims of left-turn accidents may be eligible to pursue compensation for damages, including:

  • Medical bills
  • Lost income
  • Pain and suffering
  • Other associated expenses

The at-fault party’s insurance company may also consider other elements, such as the driver’s negligence and any applicable laws or regulations. It is advisable to consult with personal injury lawyers, specifically a car accident attorney, to gain insight into the specific factors that may affect compensation in your case.

Following a left-turn accident, the procedure for requesting remuneration generally requires:

  1. Collecting evidence
  2. Informing the insurance company
  3. Obtaining medical care
  4. Consulting with a lawyer
  5. Bargaining a settlement
  6. Initiating a lawsuit if necessary.

In many left-turn accidents, the insurance company of the left-turning driver is often found to be primarily responsible for the car accident. The insurance company will provide compensation to the victims for their losses.

Strategies for Safer Left Turns

Defensive driving and respecting traffic laws and signals are key to guaranteeing safer left turns.

We will elaborate on specific defensive driving techniques and discuss how traffic laws and signals contribute to safer left turns.


Defensive Driving

Defensive driving is a set of skills and techniques that help drivers to anticipate and avoid potential hazards on the road. By exercising defensive driving, drivers are more cautious and attentive when making left turns, thus decreasing the likelihood of collisions with oncoming traffic or pedestrians. Some specific defensive driving techniques to use during left turns include:

  • Avoiding non-signaled left turn options and ‘permitted phase’ lights
  • Using right turn loops by pre-planning your route
  • Performing shoulder checks to the left to make sure it is safe to perform the turn
  • Glancing left first to make sure all traffic is stopping before entering the intersection

Maintaining a safe distance helps to reduce the risk of rear-end collisions and thus prevent left-turn accidents. By maintaining the necessary distance from the vehicle in front, you can respond quickly and stop if the vehicle ahead suddenly stops or slows down, thereby avoiding a collision. Awareness of one’s environment allows for anticipation and response to potential hazards, thus reducing left-turn collisions.

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Traffic Laws and Signals

Traffic laws and signals contribute to left turn safety by establishing clear guidelines and instructions for drivers. When making a left turn at a controlled intersection, drivers should:

  1. Yield to oncoming traffic
  2. Wait for a green arrow signal indication, which indicates a dedicated left-turn phase
  3. Turn left while oncoming traffic is stopped

The green arrow signal, acting as a stop sign for conflicting traffic from the opposite direction, makes sure that there is no interference, thereby reducing the risk of accidents during left turns.

Yielding to oncoming traffic, implementing left-turn traffic signals, increasing visibility and light, and improving intersection design are ways traffic laws and signals help establish safer left turns.

Real-World Examples of Left-Turn Accidents

Real-world examples of left-turn accidents help highlight the dangers and consequences of these collisions. In recent years, there have been numerous cases of left-turn accidents resulting in injuries ranging from minor scrapes to severe trauma and even fatalities. Some accidents involve head-on or T-bone collisions at traffic crossings and left-hand turn accidents at or near intersections.

Celebrities, such as Ashley Tisdale, Niki Taylor, and Venus Williams, have also been involved in left-turn accidents. These real-world examples are a reminder of the potential dangers associated with left-turn accidents and the importance of practicing safe driving techniques and following traffic laws and signals.

Interactive Elements for Understanding Left-Turn Dangers

Interactive elements, such as simulations or quizzes, help readers better understand the risks and challenges associated with left-turn accidents. Virtual reality (VR) simulations of dangerous driving scenarios, displays, and interactive stalls designed to promote knowledge of road safety are effective interactive elements for understanding road safety.

Online simulations, such as the Semi Truck Simulation: Danger zones, and interactive games like Turn Left on GamePix, provide opportunities for practicing safe left turns in a simulated environment. Quizzes also help in understanding the risks associated with left turns by evaluating one’s knowledge and awareness of the hazards.

By engaging with these interactive elements, readers can better understand the dangers of left-turn accidents and how to avoid them.

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In conclusion, left-turn accidents pose significant risks and challenges for drivers. By understanding the perils of left-turn accidents, factors contributing to these accidents, and legal implications, we can adopt strategies for safer left turns, such as practicing defensive driving and adhering to traffic laws and signals. Real-world examples and interactive elements further increase our understanding of left-turn dangers and help us become safer, more responsible drivers on the road.

Frequently Asked Questions


What makes a left turn across traffic dangerous quizlet?

A left turn across traffic is dangerous due to limited visibility, multiple areas to check for other road users, and limited protection in the event of an accident.


What are the facts about left turns?

Left turns are one of drivers' most dangerous maneuvers and account for roughly 25% of all car accidents. Driver error is often to blame in left turn accidents, which have high crash rates for older drivers. It is important to be aware of the different types of left-turn situations and to always yield to oncoming traffic when making a left turn.


What is the risk when you cut the corner during a left turn?

Cutting the corner during a left turn is dangerous and can lead to a sudden crash with another vehicle.


How do you know if it's an unprotected left turn?

An unprotected left turn occurs when a driver lacks the right-of-way to make the turn and must yield to oncoming traffic. This maneuver typically happens without the assistance of a red light or stop sign, and drivers must look for vehicles coming from the opposite direction before proceeding across the intersection.


What are the most common causes of left-turn accidents?

Left-turn accidents are commonly caused by misjudging oncoming traffic speed, navigating blind spots, and visibility issues.

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Meet the Author

Max Muller - Founding Partner

Maximillian J. Muller is a founding member of Muller Brazil and My Vaccine Lawyer. Mr. Muller is an experienced litigator in both Federal and State Courts in the areas of vaccine injury, unsafe drug and medical device injury, personal injury, mass torts, and bad faith. Mr. Muller prides himself on keeping Muller Brazil on the cutting edge of injury litigation and running a client-focused practice.

Learn more about Max Muller