Every day, when you get into your vehicle, you choose to set aside the potential risk involved with driving or riding in a car. Even if you're driving only on surface streets and not the highway, there is still a very real risk of a potentially injurious or fatal collision. In fact, the more intersections you travel through, the greater your potential risk may become, regardless of the posted speed limit.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration carefully analyzes data about collisions, injuries and fatalities to help guide policy to protect drivers. An analysis of the roughly 5,811,000 crashes in 2008 in the United States shows how intersections generate risk. Approximately 40 percent of all crashes in 2008 involved an intersection. Understanding risk factors can help you safely navigate these areas where two or more roads meet.
Failing to properly look for traffic is the biggest risk
The 2008 analysis showed that driver inattention is by far the biggest issues in intersection-related crashes. About 96 percent of intersection crashes resulted from driver mistakes. Of that pool of driver-caused intersection crashes, over 44 percent related to inadequate surveillance.
In other words, failing to look around carefully when approaching and stopping at an intersection is the biggest risk factor for an intersection crash. People who travel the same route daily may take for granted that they know what to expect at an intersection. Others may only glance quickly to look for vehicles, which could mean failing to notice bicycles, motorcycles and pedestrians in crosswalks nearby.
Mistaken assumptions and obstructed views are also issues
When you reach an intersection, you look up to see what other nearby vehicles do. Checking for turn signals, ensuring that other vehicles slow down and stop, and watching for similar signs are all critical to your safety. If someone fails to turn on a turn signal or applies it while going straight, that could lead other drivers to make major mistakes.
If you assume what drivers will do only to have them do something else, that could easily lead to a collision. Inaccurate assumptions about the actions of another driver lead to 8.34 percent of the driver-caused intersection crashes, while misjudgment of speed caused another 5 percent.
Visibility issues are also a factor in 7.8 percent of intersection crashes. Bushes, trees, parked cars, business signage or even people standing near the corner could obstruct your view and leave you at increased risk of a crash.
Stay focused and safe near intersections when driving
One of the best ways to limit your potential risk of a crash is to remain alert and cautious every time you approach an intersection, even if you drive through it several times a day. Traffic conditions are always changing. Focusing on safety at high risk locations, like intersections, could limit the risk of causing a crash.