Depending on where you live, there are some intersections in your city that are believed to be more dangerous than others. You might observe accidents there on a regular basis, or you may have had a near-collision there yourself.
Some of these beliefs may purely be superstition or observational bias, but there are local authorities who can back up other claims with evidence. For example, Chicago car accident lawyers know that the intersection of Lake Shore Drive and East 57th Drive in Hyde Park is one of the most dangerous intersections in the entire city, with more than 50 reported injuries from 2015 to 2019.
But what exactly is it that makes an intersection dangerous, and is there any way to mitigate your risk of getting in a car accident in them?
What Makes an Intersection Dangerous?
These are some of the characteristics present in highly dangerous intersections:
· High speeds. Faster traveling vehicles increase the “danger” factor for all other drivers on the road for two main reasons. First, traveling faster means you have less time to react, slow down, or stop; by the time the driver realizes something is wrong, it’s already too late. Second, faster traveling speeds lead to more damage and a higher risk of fatalities. Accordingly, intersections placed at the nexus of roads with high speed limits tend to be more dangerous; fast cars aren’t always able to stop in time.
· High volume. Sometimes, perceived danger is an illusion of statistics. If an intersection has more cars traveling through it on a daily basis, it’s going to be home to more collisions. For example, assume Intersection A and Intersection B both have an accident rate of 0.1 percent, but Intersection A sees 50 cars daily and Intersection B sees 1,000 cars daily. Intersection B would see, on average, an accident every day, while Intersection A sees an accident only once every 20 days, making it seem less dangerous despite a similar per-car rate.
· Low visibility. Intersections can also be more dangerous due to visibility issues. In some cases, a hill, a barrier, or another visibility obstacle can block the view of people at the intersection. Accordingly, they may be less likely to notice a light is red, or less likely to notice aberrant traffic patterns.
· Confusing layouts. Sometimes, an intersection can feel more dangerous because it has a confusing layout. Rather than a straightforward + shaped design, there may be several roads intersecting in a strange way; as a result, cars may be more likely to head in the wrong direction or collide with other vehicles.
· Poor signage. Signage at intersections can also play a role. For example, if the stop sign is in bad condition, off to the side, it may be hard for drivers to see. Some intersections don’t appear to be intersections from a distance. Additional warnings, like “intersection ahead” can lower the danger of a forthcoming intersection.
· Ambiguous turning lanes. Established turning lanes allow traffic to flow smoothly, but they aren’t always possible. Ambiguous markings force drivers to make fast decisions, and can sometimes lead to abnormal turning patterns.
· Changing patterns. Daily drivers tend to get used to traffic patterns. If and when those patterns change, they’re often thrown off. They may mistakenly drive through an intersection on habit, not realizing a new stop sign has been installed or that the light is currently red.
· Unsafe pedestrian traffic. Pedestrians are more likely to be hurt or killed than drivers and passengers in vehicles. Accordingly, an intersection becomes deadlier when it’s home to heavy pedestrian foot traffic.
· Unsafe driver habits. Certain areas and intersections may also be more dangerous due to local driver habits. For example, intersections near bars around closing time may be more dangerous due to a higher concentration of intoxicated drivers.
Limiting Intersection Danger
There are a few strategies you can use to limit the danger you’re exposed to:
· Increase your awareness. First, understand the factors that could make an intersection dangerous and learn to spot them. You don’t need a deep dive into the statistics if you know that an intersection has visibility or signage issues.
· Avoid problematic intersections. When you do spot problematic intersections in your city, try to avoid them. Sometimes a short detour can dramatically reduce your risk of an accident.
· Campaign for changes. If you have the time, consider campaigning your local government to make a change, such as installing a new sign or improving traffic flow.
· Take a second look. When approaching a dangerous intersection, look left and right before driving through a green—just in case.
All intersections have the potential to be dangerous if drivers are distracted, reckless, or negligent, but some are clearly more dangerous than others. Learn what you can about the intersections in your city, and improve your own safety as a driver.