Why Turning Left Could Be the Riskiest Driving Move

no left turn

Avoiding Left-Hand Turns: A Step in the Right Direction

In the world of politics, the left and the right sides will always battle for power and superiority. But when it comes to safe driving practices, new evidence suggests that one side clearly has the upper hand.

Recent reports found the seemingly simple act of making a left-hand turn to be one of the most dangerous things a driver can do. Almost 10 times as many crashes involve left turns as right, and these turns account for significant numbers of both pedestrian and motorcycle accidents.

Some safety advocates advise avoiding left-hand turns as a way to avoid auto accidents, but can this really be done? And how can something as basic as turning left really cause so many issues?

Are Left-Hand Turns Really That Bad?

If you've ever been running late and stuck behind a driver leisurely waiting until the opposing lane is clear to turn left, you've probably cursed the existence of the left-hand turn. But are they really that bad? According to traffic engineers, yes they are.

Called "the bane of traffic engineers," left-hand turns cause a host of problems for not only the engineers who design our roadways, but also the drivers who use them every day. They cause congestion, back-up traffic flow, safety concerns, and scenarios for car accidents.

Safety Concerns

The biggest safety issue is that left-hand turns cross traffic. Making a left against oncoming traffic requires a good sense of timing, control, and judgement on the part of the driver—and therein lies the potential for accidents.

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Federal reports show that 53.1 percent of cross-path crashes involve left turns, but only 5.7 percent involve right turns. That's almost 10 times as many crashes involving left turns as right. Left-hand turns are almost 3 times as likely to cause a fatal pedestrian accident and are involved in 36% of fatal motorcycle accidents.

Left-Hand Turns Waste Time and Gas

Restricting left-hand turns could reduce the number of car accidents, but it could also make drivers more efficient overall. UPS, one of the world's largest shipping companies, has chosen to minimize and sometimes eliminate left-hand turns to improve efficiency. This is based on the principal that idling while waiting to turn against oncoming traffic wastes time, fuel, and therefore, money.

At any given intersection, there are typically far more vehicles traveling straight through a traffic light than vehicles that are making a left-hand turn. Left-turning vehicles waste time and gas as they wait for a break in oncoming traffic...as well as the time and fuel of the cars behind them.

In a recent study, intersections where all left-hand turns were re-routed so that drivers were forced to only make right turns, led all vehicles involved to arrive at their destinations 20% faster. This method is proven to be effective in saving drivers time, which therefore leads to a net effect of fuel savings.

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UPS hasn't eliminated the left-hand turn altogether, but company officials estimate that their trucks turn right about 90 percent of the time. The company says the changes have helped save millions of gallons of fuel.

A Step in the Right Direction

Sometimes turning left is unavoidable, and if you've always considered left-hand turns an essential part of driving, the idea of restricting them may seem like it's out of left field. But don't be afraid to take a page out of UPS's book and cut down on left-hand turns when possible. It could reduce your risk of a car accident and be surprisingly fuel efficient.

Car accidents can have many causes related to driver error. Some drivers ignore warnings and drive carelessly, which creates a hazardous environment for everyone. If you or someone you care about was hit by a careless driver, you may have serious injuries to deal with. You might have piles of bills and wonder how you're going to make ends meet.

When you have questions, contact Edgar Snyder & Associates for answers. Call 1-866-943-3427, or fill out the form at the top right of this webpage for a no obligation, free legal consultation.

Sources: “The case for almost never turning left while driving.” Washingtonpost.com. July 20, 2015.