Reprinted from Guardian Magazine – Q1/2012
Studies show that almost 40% of all traffic collisions are intersection-‐related crashes . This should come as no surprise since any time drivers have an opportunity to cross each other’s path, the risk increases substantially. Not only are intersection crashes common, they also often lead to higher severity outcomes than other types of vehicle incidents, such as side-‐swipes and backing collisions.
This is an important point. Why? Because some organizations focus so much on frequency that they tend to overlook less frequent incident types that result in higher severity crashes and a disproportionate amount of accident-‐related payouts.
So what are the key contributors to these intersection-‐ related collisions? The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) released an interesting study on this topic, “Crash Factors in Intersection-‐ Related Crashes: An On-‐Scene Perspective”. This research studied collisions that occurred at an intersection while turning left, turning right or crossing over. Because of the length of the article, I’ve included highlights that can help you as you look at the type and severity of collisions within your organization.
About 96% of the intersection-‐related collisions had critical reasons for the incident that were associated with the driver. Less than 3% had critical reasons assigned to the vehicle or environment. In other words, nearly every one of these incidents was due to a driver action, not other factors.
What was the most common critical reason for the incident? Inadequate surveillance. Drivers simply failed to see the problem until it was too late. Effective use of our eyes is still the most critical aspect of safe driving.
Next most common was “false assumption of other’s actions.” We frequently see this when viewing our clients’ risky driving clips. For example, a driver approaching an intersection is taken by surprise when an on-‐coming vehicle turns left across their path. Don’t give other drivers too much credit. Assume the worst and be prepared for it.
Close behind was, “turned with obstructed view” present in 7.8% of the collisions. What does this mean? Too often, drivers turn across an intersection without a clear view. In other words, they’re relying on blind luck. At some point their luck will run out. When it comes to turning across an intersection the motto should always be, “if you don’t know, don’t go”.
“Illegal maneuver” was cited in 6.8% of the events. Far too many drivers habitually roll through stop-‐signs and traffic lights, or turn illegally. Unfortunately, each time they do this and nothing happens, it reinforces that behavior. The NHTSA findings suggest this dangerous habit will catch up to them.
It may come as a surprise that it was this far down the list, but “internal distraction” was found as the critical reason in only 5.7% of the collisions. Certainly, distractions need to be eliminated – especially in and around intersections. But keep in mind there are other very important concerning factors that need to be addressed in order to reduce risks at intersections.
The last factor I’ll mention is “misjudgment of gap or other’s speed,” which was present in 5.5% of the crashes. We’ve all had a close call due to this error. This can be a dangerous mistake for every driver but for those driving larger vehicles, it’s much more difficult to overcome because of less ability to accelerate out of the way and greater length of vehicle to clear the other driver’s path.
Let’s recap the key points:
• Be especially vigilant in and around intersections. Don’t just focus straight ahead.
• Don’t assume you know what another driver is going to do. Assume the worst and plan accordingly until their actions confirm otherwise.
• Don’t move into, or across, the intersection if you can’t see if it’s clear. Better to lose a few seconds off your schedule waiting for a safe opportunity than to risk a serious crash.
• Obey traffic control devices and traffic laws.
Don’t become part of the almost 7% who paid a high price for ignoring these devices and laws.
• Eliminate all distractions inside the cab of your vehicle while approaching or entering an intersection. Driving is always dangerous, but risks are even higher in and around intersections.
As the statistics show, intersections are risky. Use the tips mentioned to greatly reduce your chances of an intersection crash. And if you can, consider an alternate path if your route includes an intersection that is known to be a particularly dangerous crossing.