Left turns involve conflicting movements with vehicles traveling in the opposite direction and pedestrians crossing the street. Coordination between all road users becomes crucial in a left-turn scenario. As a result, left turns are particularly hazardous driving maneuvers.
To mitigate the risks associated with left turns, drivers should exercise caution, maintain awareness of their surroundings and adhere to traffic laws and signals. Using turn signals, scanning for hazards and waiting for a safe gap in oncoming traffic are also important.
What causes the higher rate of collisions involving left turns?
Left turns can be particularly dangerous in traffic because of several factors beyond the “base” conflicting movement reality of such maneuvers. These factors include:
- Crossing Oncoming Traffic: When making a left turn, a driver needs to navigate across one or more lanes of oncoming traffic. This requires accurately judging the speed and distance of approaching vehicles. If the driver misjudges the gap or the speed of oncoming traffic, it can lead to a collision.
- Limited Visibility: Left turns often involve obstructed or limited visibility. Buildings, trees, parked vehicles and other visual barriers can make it challenging for drivers to see oncoming vehicles or pedestrians. The limited visibility increases the risk of collisions, especially when drivers fail to adequately scan for potential hazards.
- Intersection Complexity: Left turns often occur at intersections, which are complex traffic environments with multiple vehicles moving in different directions. Intersections may have traffic lights, multiple lanes and pedestrians crossing, creating a higher potential for accidents.
- Time Pressure and Impatience: Drivers making left turns may feel time pressure or impatience due to the need to wait for a suitable gap in oncoming traffic. This can lead to hasty and risky decision-making, such as misjudging gaps or attempting to make a turn without proper clearance.
Ultimately, drivers need to be aware of all these things at once, increasing their cognitive load and the chances of errors or miscalculations. Thankfully, awareness of the hazardous nature of left-hand turns can help to mentally prepare drivers for the challenging task of navigating them.