Who is At-Fault for Left Turn Accidents?

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As with any type of car accident, there are a number of factors that need to be considered when determining who is responsible for causing a left turn accident. For example, the police report will provide important details about the accident. Witnesses who saw the accident may provide statements about the events leading up to the accident. Traffic signals equipped with cameras often show exactly what happened. Although the motorist making the left turn is often at fault for left turn accidents, since the oncoming traffic has the right of way, this is not the case 100 percent of the time. A skilled car accident lawyer will determine who is at fault for causing the accident and recommend the best legal course of action for the injured victim.

How Common are Left Turn Accidents?

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that there are 480,000 left turn accidents each year in the United States. In addition, 22 percent of all car accidents involve a motorist who is making a left turn, and 53 percent of all cross-path accidents involve vehicles making a left turn, whereas only six percent involve right turns. The majority of the six million intersection-related car accidents that occur in the United States are left turn accidents. According to the Maryland Department of Transportation, left turn accidents make up over half of all traffic accidents involving vehicles crossing the path of traffic. In Baltimore alone, there are roughly 5,000 left turn accidents every year. These accidents can cause significant property damage and severe injuries, particularly if the oncoming vehicle is travelling at a high speed.

What Makes Left Turns So Dangerous?

Busy intersections, particularly those with multiple lanes of traffic, can be dangerous if motorists do not pay close attention to the traffic signals; the oncoming traffic; and other vehicles, bicyclists, or pedestrians in the vicinity.

In fact, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation, left hand turns are the most dangerous driving maneuver a motorist can make. Making a left turn requires the driver to judge the speed at which the oncoming vehicle is traveling and determine whether it is safe to make the left turn. Newly licensed or inexperienced drivers can easily become stressed and overwhelmed when trying to make a left turn, particularly if there are multiple vehicles behind them that are also waiting to turn. Left turns can be dangerous for the following reasons:

  • Left turns disrupt the flow of traffic.
  • Motorists making a left turn often speed up when turning, putting other motorists and pedestrians at risk.
  • Left turns require more mental effort that right turns, particularly when the intersection has multiple lanes and traffic signals.
  • Blind turns make it difficult to pay attention to traffic from both the left and the right.
  • Drivers may be required to cross multiple lanes of traffic when making a left turn, which can be intimidating during heavy traffic.
  • Motorists can become confused about which lane to use when making a left turn.
  • If a motorist is behind a truck, a bus, or another large vehicle, their view may be obstructed when turning.
  • Oncoming traffic may try to race through a traffic light that is about to turn red. If the motorist making the left turn misjudges how fast the oncoming vehicle is driving, it can result in a devastating T-bone accident.
  • Unfamiliar intersections can be confusing the motorists. This can create a hazard if the motorist fails to navigate the left turn safely, particularly during heavy traffic, or if the intersection includes a pedestrian crosswalk.
  • Poor road conditions can also make a left turn more hazardous. For example, if the roads are covered in ice or snow, left turns can be especially dangerous. Motorists must use extra caution and reduce their speed when making a left turn.
  • Smaller vehicles may be difficult for other motorists to see, particularly if a truck, SUV, or other large vehicle is obstructing the view.

What are the Most Common Causes of Left Turn Accidents?

Most left turn accidents can be avoided if motorists are paying attention to the traffic signals, the oncoming traffic, and other vehicles in the vicinity. A failure to do this can increase the risk of a serious accident. The following are examples of some of the most common causes of left turn accidents:

  • Motorists who exceed the speed limit in an effort to beat oncoming traffic
  • Misjudging the speed or distance of oncoming vehicles
  • Failing to use a turn signal
  • Making a left turn when the motorist’s vision is obstructed
  • Driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol
  • Driving while distracted
  • Failing to yield to the right of way

When is the Oncoming Driver At-Fault?

In the majority of left turn accidents, the driver making the turn is usually at fault. However, the following are examples of situations where the oncoming driver may be partially or entirely at fault:

  • The oncoming motorist drives through a red light and hits the vehicle making a left turn.
  • The oncoming motorist was exceeding the speed limit. If he or she hit the vehicle making a left turn, the oncoming driver may be held liable or share liability for the crash.
  • If the oncoming driver was impaired by drugs or alcohol at the time of the accident, he or she may be liable for causing the accident.
  • If the oncoming driver was texting, talking on the phone, or engaging in any other distracted behavior, he or she may be held liable for a left turn accident.

How is Liability Determined?

Although most left turn accidents are caused by the motorist who is making the left turn, this is not always the case. Determining fault in a left turn accident will depend on key evidence, including debris that is left on the road after the accident, the position of the vehicles after the crash, skid marks on the road, and camera footage if the traffic lights are equipped with traffic enforcement cameras. In addition, if there were witnesses who saw the accident happen, they may provide statements about the events leading up to the accident, which can help determine fault. Ultimately, liability for left turn accidents will be determined by who had the right of way, each of the driver’s duties on the road, and whether a reasonable and prudent driver would have exhibited the same driving behavior in a similar scenario.

How can I Avoid a Left Turn Accident?

Although motorists cannot control how other people drive, they can keep the following tips in mind, which will help prevent left turn accidents:

  • Drive defensively. Drivers should not assume that other drivers are going to yield to a motorist who is making a left turn. Oncoming traffic has the right of way, so motorists must wait to turn until it is safe to do so.
  • Always use the turn signal. This alerts other drivers that a motorist is about to turn. This allows other drivers to change lanes if the car ahead is making a left turn.
  • Be prepared to apply the brakes when turning. When making a left turn, motorists must always be ready to brake suddenly, particularly if oncoming traffic is traveling at a high speed.
  • Avoid turning if vision is obstructed. If a motorist is behind a truck or any other large vehicle that is obstructing their vision, proceeding with making a left turn can be dangerous. The driver should wait to turn until they can see clearly.
  • Avoid speeding when making a left turn. Too often, motorists try to beat oncoming traffic or turn before a traffic light turns red by speeding up. Making a left turn too quickly can increase the risk of an accident with another vehicle, a bicyclist, or a pedestrian.
  • Always check both directions before turning. Drivers should look left, right, and left again before turning. It can be easy to miss an oncoming vehicle, particularly if the motorist’s headlights have not been turned on.
  • Be patient. Even if there is a line of cars waiting to turn, oncoming traffic has the right of way. Motorists should not feel pressure to make an unsafe left turn simply because other cars are waiting.
  • Obey all traffic laws. Motorists are responsible for understanding and following all traffic laws, including those that involve left turns.

Baltimore Car Accident Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton Represent Victims of Left Turn Accidents

If you were seriously injured in a left turn car accident, do not hesitate to contact the experienced Baltimore car accident lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton. We will thoroughly examine the details of the accident and determine who was responsible for causing the accident. If the other driver was negligent in any way, we will hold him or her liable for your injuries and secure the maximum financial compensation you deserve. We will not stop fighting for you until you are completely satisfied.  To schedule a free consultation, call us today at 800-547-4LAW (4529) or contact us online.

Our offices are conveniently located in BaltimoreColumbiaGlen Burnie, and Prince George’s County, where we represent victims throughout Maryland, including those in Anne Arundel CountyCarroll CountyHarford CountyHoward CountyMontgomery CountyPrince George’s CountyQueen Anne’s CountyMaryland’s Western CountiesSouthern Maryland and the Eastern Shore, as well as the communities of CatonsvilleEssexHalethorpeMiddle RiverRosedale, Gwynn OakBrooklandvilleDundalkPikesvilleParkvilleNottinghamWindsor MillLuthervilleTimoniumSparrows PointRidgewood, and Elkridge.