DANGEROUS INTERSECTIONS… BEWARE!
Spend any time behind the wheel, and you’ll eventually see more than one accident at an intersection. Many are simple fender-benders. Others are more tragic – serious injury or death to either a driver or a pedestrian.
However, what makes some intersections virtual accident magnets? And then, what if anything can be done about it?
We’d like to think our roads are planned, built and maintained to the highest of standards. While that may be so in many instances, in all too many it just isn’t so.
Poor planning can and does contribute to dangerous intersections.
Less Than Adequate Signage – If road signs are improperly placed, hidden or even non-existent, a driver can make a mistake without even knowing it. A good example of this are those signs informing drivers when they can make a right turn on red. Usually erected around areas where school kids are prone to cross, if the signage is high up on the traffic light pole – it can be missed. The proper way would be to have two signs – one at street level and one on the traffic pole.
Another fault of these signs is they are confusing. If they have multiple time slots, a driver can simply become confused as to when they can turn or not.
Lighting Problems – Especially after daylight, inadequate street lighting is a problem just itching to cause collisions. Twilight and dawn-break can be especially dangerous times, as autos may not have their lights on – and the poor visual conditions can lead to dangerous intersections and accidents.
Crosswalk Construction – If a crosswalk is improperly planned, pedestrians are put at a much greater risk at these dangerous intersections.
Non 90-Degree Intersections – We are used to seeing intersections that converge like a cross. However, when the roads are shifted away from this 90 degrees construct, accidents increase. For example, a curved approach to an intersection can hurt a driver’s reaction time to a sign or light – preventing them from stopping in time and causing a collision.
Traffic Light Issues – This actually happened in Long Island, New York. In order to save energy, new street lamps were constructed with power saving sodium bulbs. These lamps gave out a yellow light. The problem? When driving along the street, due to the angle of the lamps and the traffic lights, at certain points the yellow traffic signals and the yellow-hued road lamps visually converged. A driver would see yellow and think he had time to make the crossing – but in actuality the light was just changing to red.
What made this situation so dangerous was that the yellow hue of the street lamps and the yellow hue of the traffic signals were nearly identical.
By far, however, it’s a driver’s mistakes causing accidents at these dangerous intersections.
Red Lights – One of the most prevalent mistakes is trying to beat that red light. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), out of 1.9 million intersection crashes, 219,000 were caused because someone ran the red light.
In fact, the NHTSA reports that approximately 8,700 people are killed in intersection or intersection-related traffic collisions in any given year. In 1999, USA Today reported intersection accidents were responsible for nearly one-quarter of all deadly crashes.
Distraction – How many times have you seen a driver yakking away on their cell phone, while trying to make a turn at an intersection? Recent research indicates talking on the phone while driving is about as dangerous as someone who’s had a couple of shots of booze before getting behind the wheel. Even worse? Texting while driving. Doing this can practically assure an accident sooner or later, especially at a dangerous intersection.
Misjudging Other Drivers or Pedestrians – You may have thought the other driver at that intersection was waiting for you to turn first. Unfortunately, they were thinking the opposite. Result – a collision. Or worse yet, you were expecting that pedestrian or bike rider to stop and let you pass. Someone lying on the street a few seconds later made it obvious you were wrong.
With an estimated 40% of motor vehicle crashes occurring at intersections (49% in city situations), dangerous intersections take more than their fair share of accidents and injuries.
WHAT CAN BE DONE?
If an intersection is inherently dangerous due to the poor road construction factors mentioned above, then the government agencies in charge should do some fixing. Unfortunately, that takes money – and many local and city municipalities are just too strapped for cash to invest in improvements.
To be blunt, the best precaution against dangerous intersections is you. Always think ahead – and be proactive. Never assume the other driver, pedestrian or bike rider will do as you expect. And please, no phone call or text message is that important it can’t wait until your car is stopped. It only takes one lapse of attention for an accident to happen. At best, just some busted metal and aggravation will make your day lousy. At worst, it’s a trip to the ER – or even the morgue.
Did you know…
According to State Farm Insurance, there are three main types of intersection accidents:
- Rear-end collisions – these are the most common.
- Next are side-impact or angled collisions.
- Least common are front end collisions.