Right is Right: Why Left hand Turns are so Dangerous and Right hand turns are Much Safer

Right is Right: Why Left hands Turns are so Dangerous and Semis Should be Turning Left Instead
After being involved in auto accident claims for victims of collisions for the better part of two decades, certain common trends tend to emerge.  One that seemed to continue to pop up was that accidents that resulted in catastrophic injuries, such as death and paralysis, were more often than not collisions that involved vehicles crossing other lanes of traffic. This typically occurs when a car is entering or exiting another roadway.  Further, this entering or exiting a roadway is typically accompanied by a car or truck turning left across traffic.  After litigating scores of these accidents and delving into what was going on further, the results were surprising if not necessarily intuitive, most serious accident involve crossing traffic and most often crossing traffic occurs when making a left hand turn.
Consider the following statistics:

  • There are 10 times as many crashes involving left hand turns as right hand turns (National Traffic Safety Administration);
  • Half of the car collisions in America are intersection related and most of those involve left hand turns;
  • A study by the New York City transportation planners revealed that left turns were 3 times more likely to be the cause of accident in which a pedestrian was killed;
  • 36 percent of fatal motorcycle accidents involve left hand turns by other in front of a motorcycle.

These statistics are alarming.  So much so that insurance companies, state and the federal DOTs, and even neuroscientists (study) are studying ways to make left hand turns safer. Some have even gone so far as to recommend eliminating them.  While we are not there yet, many companies have recognized this danger hidden in plain sight and many are starting to take action.   

UPS is All Right… Literally!
UPS discovered years ago that their routes were inefficient.  The solution?  They started reducing left hand turns.  In turn (get it?), they dramatically reduced time waiting at intersections.  The results were dramatic and even unexpected in some ways: they substantially increased fuel efficiency since they weren’t waiting as long at bus intersections.  Further, they discovered that in many instances making only, or even mostly, all right turns often even saved time as well.  On top of that, accidents were reduced because crossing traffic was dramatically reduced as well.
The results were so significant, UPS developed a proprietary navigation software for its trucks that helps increase efficiency in routing and, as part thereof, minimize left hand turns.  UPS representatives have estimated that 90 % of its drivers turns are now right turns! 

Waze Signals a Right Turn
Even the new tech giants have recognized turning right is simply better.  The Waze app, as many know, is a navigation app that helps plot the best way to get from point A to point B.  Initially, this almost always meant the fastest route.  But now Waze has added a feature that lets the drivers avoid busy intersections, particularly those that are unmarked. While it can in some instances add a nominal amount of time, it is hoped that this feature will result in much safer routes and hopefully even more efficiency as well.

Okay, so Should I Never Turn Right Again?      
Well that would probably be a touch impractical.  However, verified data compiled over the past 10-15 years from government agencies and private companies alike show us that right turns are simply much safer particularly when utilized to avoid left turns at busy intersections.  GRL Law’s experience in representing the victims of hundreds of car accidents over the years leads us to the same conclusion.  In fact, a GRL accident investigation into a Left Hand Turn Accident now includes inquiry made into the routes that a driver chose or was directed, particularly if this driver is a professional.  Companies, and in particular trucking companies, should ensure that their drivers are not only safe in practice, but are also being directed to drive in the safest manner using the safest route possible. If that isn’t happening, the trucking company is putting Iowans at risk on our roadways.  GRL Law endeavors to hold all those accountable who recklessly or negligently place the lives of others and their families at risk.