Turn Notice: Guidelines for a Safe Turn

You had just taken your little girl to get her first library card. Needless to say you were a little emotional as she picked out her first book and took it to the counter, showed the librarian her “special” card and continued to smile and hug the Clifford book the entire time you were putting her into her car seat. As you turned onto Arlington, she began asking you questions about the pictures in the book and kept asking you to turn around. You waited until the intersection at Edgemoore Lane, and as you stopped, you quickly looked back at her, answered a few questions and then proceeded to make your turn.

Suddenly, out of nowhere, a large minivan smashes into your side and pushes your car up onto the curb. Fortunately, besides a few bumps and bruises, both you and your daughter are okay. The back window shattered, but your little girl was smart enough to cover her face with “Clifford,” so the glass didn’t cut her.

Although thankful that the injuries weren’t more severe, you’re not sure what happened to cause the accident. You thought you were clear, and you make that turn all the time. What more could you have done to have prevented the collision?

How to Avoid a Right-Hand Turn Disaster

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Center for Statistics and Analysis, intersection accidents are one of the main locations of vehicle collisions in the United States. Their analysis suggests that of the 800,000 intersection turning accidents that happen each year, approximately 550,000 are caused by a driver turning without first making sure his path is clear. Another 75,000 occur when the driver fails to accurately predict another’s action, and 60,000 collisions result from illegal or ill-advised vehicle maneuvering, such as ignoring traffic signs and lights.

This data shows that all drivers need to understand proper intersection safety guidelines. When approaching, crossing, or turning in an intersection, be mindful of these six tips:

  1. Slow down. High speeds can make it difficult to control a car in a turn.
  2. Follow road signs and signals. Never ignore explicit instructions such as “Left Turn Lane Must Turn” or “No Turn on Red”
  3. Use your blinker. Turn on your turn signal at least 100 feet before your intended turn.
  4. Use your best judgment. Do not let other drivers intimidate you into making an unsafe turn. Turn only when you believe it is safe and clear. Just because it may be legal to make a right turn at a red light does not obligate you to turn before the signal turns green.
  5. Always look for oncoming traffic before turning. Never make a turn without checking to make sure that you have the right of way, and that there are no other cars, bikes, or pedestrians for a potential accident.
  6. Turn in one single, smooth motion. Hesitation or jerky maneuvering may confuse pedestrians or drivers of other vehicles.

Intersections are inherently dangerous, as an average of six—and sometimes as many as ten—separate lanes of traffic are all converging into one space. This is why awareness of your surroundings, precautionary safety measures, and good judgment are essential for intersection safety. Don’t try to rush a crossing or shave a few seconds off of your commute by making unwise and unsafe decisions. You never know if the car in front of you, the biker next to you, or the pedestrian on the sidewalk may be making similar poor decisions, which would mean a collision may be unavoidable. Stay alert and cautious not only to protect your family but to keep our roads clear and safe.

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