NEW YORK – Weaving and turning though rush hour traffic can be a challenge in itself. Add a few hundred pedestrians to busy streets in urban areas and it could be a recipe for disaster. A recent study conducted by the New York City Department of Transportation aimed to prove left-hand turns can be some of the most deadly maneuvers on the road; not for drivers but for pedestrians.
In 2013, more than 40 pedestrians were killed after being struck by a left-turning car in New York State.
“Left turns can be difficult for drivers because there are several judgements that need to be made in a very short period of time and there can be more factors on the busy streets of New York,” car accident lawyer Ross Cellino said.
Cellino, a co-founder of the Law Offices of Cellino & Barnes, said left turn crashes outnumber right turn crashes in the city by a ratio of 3:1.
“When a driver is making a left-hand turn, they’re looking for a gap in traffic,” Cellino said. “They also know the traffic light won’t stay green forever and they can face pressure from other drivers behind them.”
According to studies, this additional pressure can force drivers to accelerate across oncoming lanes and into a crosswalk and sometimes, the driver gives little thought to the pedestrians using that crosswalk. In fact, 5 to 11 percent of drivers don’t look for pedestrians in the crosswalk at all.
New York car accident attorneys say left-turning drivers are plagued with other dangerous factors such as blind spots and traffic signals.
“Some signals have green arrows, allowing traffic to move left without having to search for that gap in traffic,” Cellino said. “At some signals, pedestrians will have a ‘walk light’ at the same time drivers are told to turn left at an intersection.”
Most vehicles have blind spots in the 10 o’clock direction called an “A-pillar.” For a moment, pedestrians crossing the street can be obscured by this particular blind spot while a driver is attempting a left-hand turn.
The maneuver is so dangerous UPS plots delivery routes in right-turning loops. The parcel delivery company encourages drivers to eliminate left turns altogether. The company claims the strategy saved 10 million gallons of gasoline and reduced CO2 emissions by 100,000 metric tons (or 5,300 passenger cars off the road for a year).
Currently, traffic safety officials are testing ways to make pedestrian crossings safer and several New York City streets are due to receive millions of dollars for safety upgrades.