An estimated 8,050 people were killed in motor vehicle traffic crashes in the United States in 2017, according to the crash data from National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Crash data is gathered by law enforcement and other local and state agencies which record all reported accidents, providing information on the number of vehicles and persons involved, injuries or fatalities, and locations and factors which may have been a cause.
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This data is used to identify possible hazards in environment and design, signage, driver habits, contributing factors, and methods to improve the safety of drivers and their passengers on the roads and highways.
The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration reports that approximately 50 percent of combined injuries and fatalities occur in car crashes at or near intersections.
In Florida, the law regarding intersections is very clear, defining whether and when a vehicle must stop or yield, and how they must proceed through intersections. Severe injury and fatality can occur at intersections due to the nature of side-impact crashes. The driver’s or passenger’s body is vulnerable to maximum injury as this is where a vehicle impacts another.
It has been proven that the use of seatbelts has improved fatality rates by 50%. In 2017, 89 to 90 percent of drivers say they use seatbelts when driving. Research reveals that lap and shoulder seat belts reduce fatal injuries to front-seat passengers by 45 percent, The risk of severe or critical injury is reduced by 50 percent. Florida is one of many states that have mandatory seatbelt laws.
Why Are Intersections Dangerous?
Intersections were identified by the Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE) in 2002 as safety hazards by design. Engineers dubbed them “planned points of conflict” in the road. And approximately 28 percent of pedestrian fatalities occur at intersections.
Intersections are extremely busy with many activities occurring at once. Attention and judgment play an important part in navigating intersections successfully. Driving has become like a second nature for us, and we can drive almost on auto-pilot. This can lead to complacency or disregard for the dangers that other drivers present.
A research project conducted by traffic engineers with the U.S. Department of Transportation and released in 2017, reports that right-angle crashes at intersections are more likely to involve severe injury or fatality at intersections with traffic signals. The data was based on collected statistics in Florida, where 45 percent of right-angle car crashes involved injury where only 25 percent of other crashes involved injury.
While there are many factors involved in car accidents, and even traffic signals themselves have been named as a hazard at intersections, some of the most common causes of intersection accidents can be attributed to:
- Driver Inattention And Distraction
- False Assumption Of Another Driver’s Intentions
- Turning With An Obstructed View
- Misjudgment Of Another Vehicle’s Speed
- Driving Fatigued
- Driving Under The Influence Of Alcohol Or Drugs
Can Anything Be Done To Reduce Accidents?
In every accident, someone is at fault. The fault may be singular or shared by another party. There can also be faulty traffic equipment, roads, signage or some flaw in the infrastructure that helps contribute to an accident. Just as there are driver habits that can be altered to decrease the likelihood of an accident, there are traffic systems that can be improved upon or altered.
- The addition of more lanes for right and left turning only
- Traffic light timing adjustments
- Brighter and larger traffic signals
- Longer crossing times for pedestrians
- Adjusting Speed Limits
- Removing of traffic lights with low traffic volume, replaced with four-way stop signs
- Installing roundabouts which have been proven to reduce speed and certain types of crashes
- The introduction of safety-enhancing design such as speed bumps and street narrowing with use of plants and brush
There are four common types of accidents at intersections:
A driver is usually distracted and does not realize the front driver has slowed down or stopped.
- Side Impact
A driver is usually running a red light on one side or is attempting to make it through a yellow light before it turns red and the other car is still going through the intersection.
One or more vehicles are turning and either collide with another moving vehicle or a non-moving vehicle stopped in traffic.
- Collision With Pedestrian or Bicycle
Driver does not yield to pedestrian traffic in a crosswalk or a pedestrian or bicyclist darts in front of a driver.
There are many things a driver can do to reduce their risk of being involved in a car accident at intersections. It is always wise to remember that even if we are careful drivers, others may not be and we must not only be mindful of how we drive but anticipate mistakes or careless driving in other drivers. A few of the things we can do to reduce risk:
- Know the driving rules and laws of your state
- Drive with patience
- Anticipate the actions of other drivers
- Never tailgate
- Avoid all distractions and keep your eyes on the road and traffic around you
- Always wear a seatbelt and insist on your passengers using their seatbelts
- Maintain proper speed when you approach intersections and remain aware of the four-way traffic
- Be cautious of impending light changes and alerts of emergency personnel in or near the intersection
- Always come to a full and complete stop and be mindful of the space between you and the driver ahead
- Always utilize your turn signals and keep your vehicle’s lights and signals in good working order
I’ve Been Involved In An Accident, What Do I Do?
In Florida, if you are involved in an accident that involves injury or fatality or if you’ve been hit by a hit-and-run driver you must contact law enforcement so they can respond to the scene of the accident and conduct an investigation report. If you believe there is property damage to either vehicle involved in the accident that appears to be a repair cost of at least $500 or more, you must also contact law enforcement.
If you’ve been involved in an accident the first step you should take is to check for injuries if you are able. If it is safe and possible, move the vehicles involved out of main traffic. You can then exchange information with the other driver and document any damage or injuries by taking photos if that is possible. You will then need to file a claim with your insurance company.
It is always wise, in the event of an accident with or without injuries, to contact an attorney for advice. If there are injuries involved, you will need an attorney to assist you in determining legal fault and if compensation is available in your case. There may be compensation available under the law if you were injured through no fault of your own and you have sustained damages because of another party’s negligence. Contact the car accident lawyers at Abrahamson & Uiterwyk for a free case evaluation today!