Drivers of vehicles have a tremendous responsibility to assure that they are paying proper attention and following all traffic laws in order to keep other drivers and pedestrians safe. This responsibility becomes even more important when drivers are in an intersection as there are many different moving parts in which the driver must be aware. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (“NHTSA”), about 40% of the 5,811,000 crashes in the U.S. occur at intersections.
Crashes often arise at an intersection because it is a location where two or more roads intersect, and activities such as turning right, turning left, crossing over lanes, and running a stop sign or stop light have the potential to cause accidents. In fact, the NHTSA conducted a relative ratio analysis, which found that intersection related accidents are almost 335 times as likely to have “turned with an obstructed view” as the critical reason related to the intersection accident.
Each year, about 2.2 million accidents occur nationally at intersections. This accounts for over 700,000 injuries and over 7,000 fatalities. Understanding and being knowledgeable about your state’s current intersection laws will help drivers avoid accidents and will also help those individuals injured in intersections accidents to determine liability.
Laws Applicable to Intersections
Each state has different laws with regard to intersection safety. Below is a list of Arizona laws that relate to intersection safety:
28-771. Vehicle at intersection; exception; entering freeway
A. When two vehicles enter or approach an intersection from different streets or highways at approximately the same time, the driver of the vehicle on the left shall yield the right-of-way to the vehicle on the right.
28-772. Vehicle turning left at intersection
The driver of a vehicle within an intersection intending to turn to the left shall yield the right-of-way to a vehicle that is approaching from the opposite direction and that is within the intersection or so close to the intersection as to constitute an immediate hazard.
28-773. Intersection entrance
The driver of a vehicle shall stop in obedience to a stop sign as required by section 28-855 and then proceed with caution yielding to vehicles that are not required to stop and that are within the intersection or are approaching so closely as to constitute an immediate hazard.
Common Causes of Intersection Accidents
The most common traffic violation associated with intersection accidents is running a stop sign or red light. This occurs when a driver continues through the intersection after not stopping at the stop sign or red light. Other common causes of intersection accidents include:
- Negligence/Driver Error—Drivers may mistake a two-way stop as a four-way stop, or a no-way stop, and pass through the intersection while another car does the same.
- Inattention—The driver is being careless or negligent and drives through the stop sign without noticing it. This may be caused by texting, reaching for an item in the car, lack of sleep and a variety of other reasons.
- Mistaken Right-of-Way—This occurs when two drivers both believe that they have the right of way and both accelerate from their stop signs and crash into each other.
- Weather—Severe weather such as heavy rain, snow, sleet, hail and sun may obscure the driver’s vision and cause them to run a stop light or stop sign. Additionally, icy or slick surfaces may cause a driver to slide through a stop sign or stoplight and crash into another vehicle that has the right of way.
- Obstruction—As mentioned above, an obstructed view is 335 times more likely to be the reason for an intersection accident. If a stop sign is blocked or obstructed in any way by bushes, trees or graffiti a driver may believe that they do not have a stop sign and continue through the intersection.
- Turning at an Intersection—A driver may believe it is their right of way and turn right or left in front of a car that is continuing through the intersection causing an
- U-Turns—U-turns (which are included in left hand turns) account for 22.2 percent of intersection crashes. Under Arizona Revised Statute Section 28-752, a vehicle cannot make a U-turn within 500 feet of another vehicle.
Ways to Reduce Intersection Accidents
Human error, or negligence, is the most common factor for intersection accidents. However, there are design procedures and road engineering measures that could assist towards safer intersections, including:
- Roundabouts—Roundabouts are an effective way of reducing the speed of traffic at intersections.
- Signage—Having clear road markings and signs are a lost-cost way to help reduce intersection accidents.
- Photo Radar—Although controversial, red light violations can be enforced and offenders penalized with the use of photo radar.
- Traffic Signal Timing—Improving traffic signal timing may reduce rear-end collisions.
- Signal Visibility—Improving signal visibility, for example making the signals brighter and larger may reduce intersection accidents.
- Two-way to Four-Way Stops—At dangerous locations the conversion of two-way, with four-way stop signs may reduce crashes.
- Traffic Calming Measures—Implementing traffic calming measures such as street narrowing, rumble strips and speed bumps.
- Speed Limits—Adjusting the speed limits on certain roads may be appropriate in reducing accidents.
Intersection driving can be intimidating, however, if a driver knows their state’s laws and pays proper attention while driving, they can navigate intersections confidentially and keep themselves, and others, safe.