Improper Turns Are a Significant Cause of Traffic Accidents
Whether drivers change lanes without signaling or turn improperly, improper turns are a major cause of traffic accidents. In fact, according to a report by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in 2008, improper turns are among the top five causes of automobile accidents. While these accidents can range from minor fender-benders to far more serious collisions, resulting in major injuries or even fatalities, improper turns remain a major cause of traffic collisions. A recent study by The Auto Insurance Center into the major causes of fatal traffic accidents used National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data, taken from 2009 through 2013, and determined the top five causes of fatal accidents. The top two causes were:
- Failure to stay in the proper lane; and
- Improper turns.
For whatever reason, whether it is eating a take-out burger while driving, attempting to adjust the car’s temperature or sound system, trying to reset the GPS, or just talking to a passenger, distractions often result in a driver drifting into another lane. This can happen without the driver’s awareness. Further, lane changes without signaling, even if intentional, can be just as dangerous as unintentional lane changes. While many newer vehicles have technology that provides alerts if you are drifting out of your lane, that is no substitute for being aware at all times of where you are on the road and whether you are in your lane.
Erratic lane changes are dangerous because of their unpredictability, especially when they are made without a turn signal. Bouncing between lanes can create a highly dangerous environment on the road. A 2014 national study by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) found that drivers do not use a turn signal during lane changes nearly half the time, and they fail to signal roughly a quarter of their turns. The SAE report was based on researchers who observed 12,000 vehicles. Those vehicles failed to signal a lane change 48 percent of the time and failed to signal 25 percent of their turns. Those findings were supported by a 2006 survey by Response Insurance, in which 57 percent of those surveyed admitted not using turn signals when changing lanes.
Failing to signal a turn is rarely cited on its own, improper turns with or without a signal cause a lot of traffic accidents. In New York’s most recent tally of accidents, unsafe lane changes were the fifth most common cause of accidents and improper turns were the seventh-leading cause. California cited improper turns as the primary cause of nearly 86,000 accidents in 2007, and improper turns cause millions nationwide. For drivers who make an improper turn, failing to signal the turn prior to an accident can mean the difference between insurance coverage for damage and a denied claim. Further, in a case like that, the failure to signal could result in liability for the other driver’s damages, as well. Using your turn signal for every lane change or turn is a critical step in avoiding accidents — and potentially avoiding liability for those accidents that do occur in the course of a turn or lane change.
What Constitutes an Improper Turn?
Lane changes and turns without signaling are easy calls when it comes to designating something as an improper turn or lane change. However, there are other examples of improper turns that are both dangerous and common, including:
- Turning at a red light when there is a “No Turn on Red” sign
- Turning right at a stop sign or red light without coming to a complete stop, failing to yield to traffic or to pedestrians
- Turning left at a red light
- Turning without signaling
- Turning without having the right-of-way
- Turning from the wrong lane, such as making a right turn from the left lane or a multi-lane road
All of these situations can result in accidents. Turning from the wrong lane can put a vehicle directly in the path of a vehicle behind it in the next lane. The other kinds of improper turns mentioned likewise can put the turning vehicle into the path of oncoming traffic. This can result in a side collision, often referred to as a “T-bone” collision, where the oncoming vehicle strikes another vehicle solidly in the side. These types of collisions can result in significant damages and injuries.
Many of these accidents can be avoided simply by being alert and paying attention to your surroundings. a federal study found that in accidents caused by driver errors, about 41 percent of the driver-related factors in causing an accident was “recognition errors that include inattention, internal and external distractions, inadequate surveillance, etc.” The most common of these types of errors were “inadequate surveillance” – in other words, failing to look or see other traffic activity that would make the driver’s actions unsafe. This was a critical factor in 20 percent of driver-error crashes, including improper turns.
If You Have Been Injured in an Accident Involving an Improper Turn in the Chicago area, Contact the Attorneys of Abels & Annes
If you have been involved in an accident in the Chicago area where the other driver made an improper turn, you should consult an attorney to determine your rights based on the circumstances of your accident. The other driver’s negligence in failing to signal or failing to properly observe the traffic situation before turning could lead to your ability to recover damages for that driver’s negligence.