Driving is a risky activity even though people may feel as though they must drive every single day. Many people tend to take for granted that they will reach their destination safely because they have a relatively safe vehicle or a history of driving without any major incidents.
Unfortunately, it only takes a moment for the situation to change. Someone might cross paths with a drunk driver or perform a maneuver that immediately and significantly increases their chance of a wreck. When looking at collisions on surface roads, specifically at intersections, turning left is perhaps the most dangerous choice that someone could make. Why are left-hand turns so dangerous?
They create more exposure
The flow of traffic in the United States requires that people drive on the right-hand side of the road unless they are on a one-way street. Controlling the flow of traffic like that in some ways reduces the possibility of a crash because everyone knows where they should drive.
Of course, the existing traffic rules also make it so that conducting a left-hand turn, especially at an intersection, causes significant exposure for the person turning. They will have to cross every other approaching lane of traffic while conducting that turn. It is also very common for people to move quite slowly when turning their vehicles, which means that there will be more time when they are exposed to oncoming traffic when compared to those turning right or proceeding straight through an intersection.
Other motorists may make the wrong choice
When looking at intersection crashes in particular, many of them occur either because of inadequate observation of the surroundings or due to a mistaken assumption about what another motorist will do. Perhaps someone approaching the same intersection fails to use their turn signal, meaning that the person turning left encounters another vehicle when they do not expect to. Other times, someone who has properly signaled their intention to turn might get ignored by other drivers, which could result in a completely preventable collision.
Some urban planners have started making changes to intersection designs and streets in general to minimize left-hand turns. For the foreseeable future, drivers will likely need to continue adjusting their habits to account for the risk involved in certain maneuvers. Learning more about the causes of many crashes can help people prioritize their safety in traffic.