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6 common intersection accident types (and how to avoid them)

In a report compiled by Arrive Alive, the US Department of Transportation estimated that as much as 43% of motor accidents happen at intersections or are ‘intersection-related’. With this in mind, knowing how to avoid these sorts of situations can minimise your risk of getting into a bad accident. Arrive Alive describes an intersection as […]

In a report compiled by Arrive Alive, the US Department of Transportation estimated that as much as 43% of motor accidents happen at intersections or are ‘intersection-related’.

With this in mind, knowing how to avoid these sorts of situations can minimise your risk of getting into a bad accident.

Arrive Alive describes an intersection as a location where two or more roads meet, cross or converge and traffic moving in different directions all comes together.

“They come in many different designs, configurations, and sizes. In traffic design, intersections can contain as many as six streets converging. For example, a six-way intersection can involve the crossing of two perpendicular streets, with yet another street crossing them diagonally.”

Types of intersection-related crashed

  • Collisions between oncoming vehicles, particularly when one is turning across traffic
  • Rear-end crashes – often occurring because a following driver is distracted and does not realize the lead driver has stopped.
  • Side impact collisions or “T-bones”.  These types of accidents typically involve a driver on one side running a red light, be it intentionally or while trying to make it through an intersection before a yellow light turns red.
  • Side-swipe collisions where one or more vehicles are turning.
  • Collisions into vulnerable road user such as pedestrians and cyclists while turning.
  • Crashes at Level Crossings/ Rail Crossings

How to avoid crashes at intersections

Approaching the Intersection

  • Drive defensively, anticipating problems and situations with heightened caution and attention during congested traffic times such as rush hour.
  • Be patient – Impatience increases emotions and decreases attention.
  • Think about what other drivers might do as you approach intersections, particularly when you are altering your path approaching an intersection.
  • Avoid all driver distractions – all your focus is required when approaching an intersection.
  • Always, always wear your seatbelt and insist that everyone in your vehicle wears theirs.
  • A passenger not buckled in will become a projectile threatening the safety of other passengers in a collision.
  • Do not speed at intersections – a driver driving too fast when approaching a crossing, may not be able to completely stop when necessary.

Considerations at Intersections with Traffic Lights

  • Know the rules of the road at intersections and specifically at traffic lights.
  • Emergency vehicles always have the first right-of-way. Remain stopped and still until the emergency vehicle has completely cleared the area of the intersection.
  • Before you move, check to be sure other emergency vehicles are not following the first one.
  • A green light means proceed with responsible caution; yellow signals mean stop before the white line unless you are too close to do so safely. A red light means stop.
  • Yellow lights do not provide a signal to motorists to go faster through the intersection.
  • Good judgment must be used to avoid violating the subsequent red light, at the same time avoiding stopping in the middle of the intersection.
  • Blinking amber lights alert the driver to be cautious in approaching and proceeding through an intersection, and to give way to all pedestrians and vehicles crossing the driver’s path
  • Blinking red lights require that motorists stop at the intersection [and yield to all pedestrians crossing their path] before proceeding through [in the same way as for a 4-way stop].
  • Look at you left and right and pay attention to other drivers who are trying to beat the signal change.
  • Be extra cautious in rain and icy cold weather where roads may be slippery.
  • Always assume when approaching an intersection that cross traffic or pedestrians may not obey traffic control devices or yield right-of-way.
  • If you are the first vehicle at the light, stop before the painted stop line, before crosswalks or, if neither is present, at the intersection itself without entering the intersection.
  • Come to a full stop and leave enough space between you and the vehicle stopped ahead of you so that you can steer around it if it were to become disabled.
  • When the light turns green, scan the intersection before you move forward – Take your time to ensure that the intersection is all yours.
  • With delayed green, some drivers believe they are entitled to those few extra seconds and speed up rather than slow down
  • Beware of those accelerating over the red light and the driver eagerly anticipating the green light.
  • Do not follow other vehicles very closely (tailgate). They might stop suddenly.
  • Always watch out for pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists.
  • Pedestrians always have the right-of-way. If a pedestrian is crossing illegally (jaywalking), you must still yield the right-of-way.
  • Use your turn signals appropriately. Without the proper signals, another driver may not be aware that you are turning and may pull out in front of you or hit you.
  • Give a turning signal before you turn or change lanes and be sure that you are in the correct lane before you signal your intention to turn.
  • Maintain your vehicle. Malfunctioning warning lights (turn signals, brakes, headlights) make it difficult for other motorists to predict your actions on the roadway.
  • Obey all traffic signals and never assume it is safe to turn!
  • Avoid entering an intersection when traffic is backed up on the other side, you may be unable to leave the intersection before the light change and might be stuck in the middle.

Unregulated intersections

  • Unmarked intersections that have no controlling lights or signage should be treated as full stops in all directions before proceeding.
  • Where traffic lights are out of order the rules for a 4-way stop apply.
  • At an intersection regulated only by a stop sign at one of the cross streets, the unregulated flow of traffic has the right-of-way.
  • The vehicle reaching the intersection and stopping first always has the right-of-way.
  • Vehicles turning left should always yield to vehicles approaching from the right and proceeding straight.

There is a need for special caution when large trucks and farming equipment approach intersections.

  • Beware of tractors pulling trailers. Collisions involving trailers often cause extensive damages to vehicles and other properties.
  • Truck drivers crossing an uncontrolled intersection, must allow enough time to clear the entire intersection with the rear of vehicle without interfering with cross traffic. They may not be visible to oncoming traffic, and oncoming drivers may be inattentive or impaired.
  • Be especially aware of uncontrolled intersections at dawn, dusk and during night time hours where you may not see a long trailer following a truck.
  • Be alert to trucks and trailers where the sides might not be clean or the reflective devices and other measures to ensure increased visibility are not operational.
  • Truck drivers need to ensure side lamps and reflective devices are operational after a flatbed trailer has been unloaded as they can be more difficult to see when empty.

Source: Arrive Alive

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