According to the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), over 50 percent of crashes involving either a fatality or injury happen in or near intersections. That’s an astounding two million intersection crashes per year. What makes intersections so dangerous? Better yet, what can you do to avoid becoming part of the statistic?
According to a study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) published in 2010, 96 percent of intersection-related crashes were due to driver error. In more than half of those crashes, it was attributed to recognition error — failure to pay attention, internal and external distractions as well as failure to properly look before proceeding.
Causes Of intersection crashes
Twenty-nine percent of intersection-related crashes were due to a decision error – people turning without signaling, changing lanes erratically, turning right through too small a gap or forcing oncoming traffic to brake.
Some drivers inch their way into an intersection, wait to turn left and only turn after the light is red. Some drivers try to run yellow lights only to find that other drivers have also run the light, causing a collision. Some drivers are moving too quickly to react. All qualify as decision errors.
Fatal intersection crashes
From 1997 through 2004, the NHTSA reported almost 64,000 fatalities from over 57,000 crashes within intersections — breaking down to roughly 7,000 fatalities each year. The overwhelming majority of these fatal crashes were due to avoidable yet consequential human error.
What errors are most likely to cause a fatal intersection crash? According to the NHTSA’s study, the most common mistakes are failure to obey traffic signals (62 percent) and properly yielding to other traffic (87 percent). We also know that behaviors like driving fatigued are common and detrimental.
Avoiding intersection crashes
The most important thing a driver can do to avoid intersection crashes is relax. Most crashes are caused by aggressive driving, making it harder to assess a situation at the intersection, especially when factoring in speed. There are more cars involved and they’re moving in different directions. Slow down.
This goes for yellow lights, too. Running a yellow light may save you a minute or two off of your overall trip, but you run the risk that someone else is running the same light in the opposite direction. If a collision occurs, it’ll be head-on and you’ll both be accelerating — the worst case for driver safety.
Safe driving best-practices
- Pick a lane and stay in it. Although it seems oversimplified, this tip will keep you safe on the road and becomes more important when there’s a large vehicle involved
- Signal your turns. There’s no reason to the direction you’re turning a secret. Let other drivers know what you intend to do. You can prevent confusion and danger by doing so.
- Keep distractions to a minimum. Turn your music down; apply your makeup at home; don’t try and come up with your next great playlist on the fly. Intersections aren’t an excuse to check your phone. Failure to pay attention to changing lights and traffic can cause crashes.
- Expect trouble at intersections. They’re oftentimes complicated and hectic. Don’t assume that everyone follows the rules — look around for visual confirmation.
Where continuous driver monitoring fits
Now that you know about the prevalence of intersection crashes and the ways to mitigate them, you may be wondering how to keep not only your company but your drivers and community safe.
Make your expectations clear. Explain your driver policy clearly and succinctly, letting everyone covered by the policy know what consequences exist if violating the rules.
Implement a driver risk management software solution like continuous driver monitoring. You’ll be to better understand thanks to near real-time alerts who should and shouldn’t be behind the wheel on behalf of your company, empowering you with actionable insight to make more informed decisions.
Ensure only the safest individuals are driving on behalf of your company by downloading our white paper and learning more about key driver risk management best practices.