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Are Left Turns Inherently Dangerous?

Posted On behalf of Michael D'Amico of D'Amico & Pettinicchi, LLC on Apr 09, 2015 in Car Accidents

A recent article in the Washington Post drew attention to one extremely common and easily overlooked source of traffic accidents: left turns. Backing up his argument with federal crash data, the author suggests that eliminating or greatly reducing left turns on heavily traveled roads could prevent traffic accidents and save lives.

Pedestrians and motorcyclists are much more likely to be hurt or killed in crashes involving left turns than right. Data from the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration show that more than half of all crosswalk accidents involve left turns, while only about one in 20 involve right turns. NHTSA statistics also show that more than one-third of all motorcycle fatalities involve another vehicle turning left into the path of a motorcycle.


Not only could eliminating left turns prevent accidents, the author of the Post article argues, but it may also make financial sense. He goes on to explain that the shipping company UPS succeeded in making its delivery routes more efficient by adopting a policy that minimizes left turns.

According to UPS, the company has saved approximately 10 million gallons of gas since 2004 as a result, and has reduced its carbon emissions by 100,000 metric tons. This, the company says, is the equivalent of removing 3,500 cars from the road for an entire year. Although avoiding left turns typically requires drivers to cover more distance, it also significantly reduces idling time spent waiting to turn left and thus increases overall efficiency.


Connecticut law requires left-turning drivers to yield the right of way to oncoming vehicles. Unfortunately, in Connecticut and elsewhere, serious accidents often occur as a result of drivers' failure to yield when turning left. This typically occurs when the driver turning left misjudges the distance of an oncoming vehicle or the time needed to complete the turn. In other cases, the left-turning driver may fail to notice the other vehicle at all.

Motorcycles tend to be especially vulnerable to collisions with left-turning vehicles. A study published recently in the journal Current Directions in Psychological Science suggests that this may be due in part to the way the brain processes visual information. According to the study, the human brain tends to interpret smaller objects as being farther away than larger objects at the same distance. This could help explain why left-turning vehicles are among the most common causes of motorcycle accidents nationwide.

If you or someone close to you has been hurt in a left-turn crash in Connecticut, it is important that you seek the advice of a knowledgeable personal injury lawyer. An attorney with a background representing injured crash victims can work with you to explore your legal options and will work hard on your behalf to pursue compensation for your medical bills, lost wages and other losses resulting from the crash.