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Avoid Car Accidents: Don't Turn Left

When you drive on a regular basis, you quickly identify points along your most common routes that cost you time. Traffic statistics go a step farther and help identify patterns of accidents, congestion and delay. One common source of trouble that many people fail to identify is the difficulty with left turn during periods of congestion. While a left turn in an area or during a time where little traffic is on the road might be an easy matter, high-density traffic makes some turns a slow and potentially deadly proposition. If there is a convenient way for you to avoid a left turn on your drive, you are probably better off going around and getting to your destination with only right turns. This can help you avoid accidents and may even help you get where you're going faster.

Several studies have pointed to the hazards of turning left. More than one-third of all deadly motorcycle accidents are caused by people turning left in front of the vehicles. A New York City study showed that left turns caused three times as many pedestrian fatalities as right turns. Federal accident data indicate that crossing path crashes involve left turn 53.1 percent of the time, while right turns are involved in only 5.7 percent of such crashes. Left hand turns are a common cause of numerous accidents and they may also contribute to traffic jams.

In many situations, left hand turns force drivers to accurately judge the speed and distance of oncoming vehicles. This is particularly troublesome when the vehicle in question is larger or smaller than an average car. Motorcycles and commercial trucks are particularly prone to accidents where drivers miscalculate how much room and how much time they have to make a left. In heavy traffic drivers waiting to make a left may become impatient and attempt to fit into a gap they would normally let pass. Frustration and pressure are not beneficial to safe driving.

The problem of left-turns has drawn the attention of safety experts and some companies. UPS has a policy of eliminating left turns from its routes whenever practical. One company official reported that UPS trucks turn right 90 percent of the time. When considering your commute or any regular path you take, you should see if there are left turns you can eliminate to reduce the chances of an accident.

Source: The Washington Post, "The case for almost never turning left while driving," by Matt McFarland, 9 April 2014

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