Lesson One: Safety at Intersections
According to NHTSA, intersection crashes account for 48 percent of injury-related incidents and generate $101 billion of societal costs each year. In fact, more than 9,100 people died and another 1.5 million people were injured in intersection-related crashes in 2004 alone. Despite improved intersection design and more sophisticated applications of traffic engineering measures, the annual toll of human loss due to motor vehicle crashes has not substantially changed in more than 25 years.
That’s why our first revealing look inside the Risk InfoCenter™ by DriveCam focuses on intersection crashes. “Intersection incidents are frequent and often of high severity,” commented Del Lisk, DriveCam vice president of safety services. “The area in and around intersections is more prone to crashes because many vehicles are crossing paths at the same time and there are often abrupt changes in speed and direction.”
One could argue that we have a plethora of mechanisms in place to ensure safe intersections: stop lights, stop signs, red light photo enforcement cameras, directional arrows, turning lanes, medians, etc. Yet, crashes and collisions continue. Everyone is taught in driver education that, after stopping at an intersection, you should always look left-right-left before proceeding into the intersection. As well, everyone knows to make a complete stop at a red light or stop sign before turning right or proceeding through the intersection. Right?
Unfortunately, according to Risk InfoCenter, this isn’t true! In fact, 39 percent of the drivers in intersection collisions simply did not look left-right-left. As well, 9 percent did not stop at a red light and 6 percent did not come to a complete stop at a stop sign, look and then proceed through the intersection. This means that more than half of all intersection crashes could be avoided by simply coaching drivers to be more visually attentive:
- Look left-right-left
- Come to a complete stop at a red light
- Come to a complete stop at a stop sign, look and then proceed
“Looking left-right-left, coming to complete stops at red lights and looking before crossing intersections are driving fundamentals that should be part of every driver’s skillset, but often these are overlooked because we travel through intersections everyday and nothing bad happens to us. Subconsciously, this is reinforcing our bad habits,” added Lisk. “Coaching drivers to be more visually attentive is key to reducing intersection collisions.”
All three of these driving fundamentals are part of everyone’s basic driving skillset. Unfortunately, they’ve been relaxed over time or drivers have become complacent. So now is the time to reinforce these basic skills and remind drivers of them. When coaching, focus on:
- Slowing down before entering an intersection and making sure to look left-right-left. It’s important to look left first because the first danger is the traffic approaching from the left. If the driver is entering a blind intersection – where he can’t see the traffic on the cross street until they are so close as to be an immediate hazard – it’s important to slow down even more. Do not enter an intersection that has not been visually cleared. Some drivers “cover” the brake by moving their foot for a few seconds from the accelerator to a position just above the brake pedal, which helps eliminate the reaction time needed to begin braking.
- Try to avoid entering an intersection within the first four seconds of a light change – the time in which the majority of collisions occur. Of course, the person behind may start honking, but it’s more important to be safe than to be dead.
- Look left-right-left to be sure no one is running the red light and the road is clear of pedestrians.
The Risk InfoCenter by DriveCam is growing at a rate of 600,000 total events per month. At this rate, it is estimated that the Center will reach more than 12.5 million events by the end of 2008.
With so much data, DriveCam will continue to release its unique perspective on risky driving – only available from the Risk InfoCenter – each month. In the meantime, should you have questions, or want more insight, please email us at email@example.com.