The Danger of Left-Hand TurnsIt’s fairly common knowledge that making a left-hand turn at an intersection is more dangerous than making a right-hand turn. When you turn left, you need to enter into traffic from oncoming lanes. When you turn right, you normally are only concerned that the traffic in the lanes nearest you has stopped. Generally, a left-hand turn requires a wider turn because you need to make sure you travel from your right-hand lane to the right-hand lane on the perpendicular road. A basic rule of thumb in car accident cases is that the driver who makes the left-hand turn is the person responsible for the accident.

Studies suggesting that turns on heavily traveled roads should be limited

Some states like New Jersey use jug-handles to limit the number of left-hand turns from major roads. Some intersections have signs that state you can’t turn left.  Some traffic safety proponents advocate that all left-hand turns from major roads be abolished. They argue as follows:

  • According to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), more than 53% of “crossing-path” accidents involve left turns. Only 5.7% involve right-hand turns.
  • NHTSA data also found that more than 1/3 of deadly accidents involving a motorcycle were caused by a driver making a left-hand turn in front of the motorcycle.
  • A New York City study found that left-hand turns were three times more likely to kill a pedestrian than a right-hand turn.
  • Left-hand turns lead to congestion problems according to Phil Caruso, the deputy executive director for technical programs at the Institute of Transportation Engineers.
  • According to Tom Vanderbilt who wrote the book Traffic, cars that turn left are either waiting to turn left in an active traffic lane or in a “dedicated left-turn lane” which may require a distinct signal phase -which increases the time delay for through-traffic and cross-traffic. In very heavily traveled areas, multiple left-turn lanes may be necessary – costing a lot of money and valuable space.

According to UPS, which handles the logistics for shipping goods on a massive scale, minimizing left-hand turns has helped the company save millions on gasoline fuel – because of the safety factor and the time delay factor. UPS estimates its trucks turn right 90% of the time. They use logistics to help ensure drivers make deliveries on the right-hand side of the road.

The Washington Post article adds that while humans will probably continue to make numerous left-hand turns, the author hopes that self-driving cars will do the “right” thing.

At Delius & McKenzie, PLLC, our car accident lawyers help determine who is at fault for an accident by reviewing police reports, examining the crash site, inspecting the vehicles involved in the crash, conducting discovery, and speaking with witnesses. We have a strong track record of successfully settling cases (most left-hand turn cases settle) and trying cases in court. Call (865) 428-8780 or fill out our contact form to discuss your car accident case. We represent injury victims and the families of anyone tragically killed in a car crash – in Sevierville, Seymour, Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, and the surrounding Tennessee areas.