Driving in intersections is one of the most dangerous areas for drivers. Yet, how many drivers go through multiple intersections every single day without a second thought? According to the Federal Highway Administration, nearly 50% of all crashes happen in an intersection. Since it isn’t possible to avoid every intersection, here are five tips to navigating them safely.
- Notice your surroundings. The most important part of driving anywhere you are is noticing your surroundings. Staying vigilant from crashes requires watching all the drivers around you. There are intersections where every direction isn’t visible because of buildings, trees, and other cars. This is especially dangerous for pedestrians crossing because stopped vehicles can block a moving lane’s view of them. This is why about 44.1% of intersection crashes are caused by inadequate surveillance of surroundings.
- Don’t speed through. No matter how hard you might try to anticipate another driver’s moves, there will always be surprises. Approximately 8.4% of intersection crashes are from making a false assumption about another driver’s actions. If you are going fast, you will have less time to make an adjustment to another driver making an unexpected turn, lane switch, or stop. If the light has turned yellow, don’t speed up to get through before the light changes red. Instead of racing through an intersection, slow down a little or come to a stop if the light is turning red.
- Keep your distance. Don’t follow the vehicle in front of you too closely through an intersection. Since crashes are so common here, it makes even more sense to follow the common driving advice of leaving yourself a way to get out. This means always planning to have a way out if a crash happens in front of you. The extra space also gives you a buffer of time and space if someone pulls in front of you quickly. Even a few feet of space can make a big difference in avoiding a crash.
- Use your signal. The best way to let other drivers know your intentions is to use your signals. When turning or changing lanes, giving the other drivers enough time to plan for your change is the safest action. Don’t turn on signals too far in advance though or you will confuse the other drivers and cause frustration.
- Carefully enter intersections. The most dangerous times to enter an intersection are when the light has turned yellow or it has just turned green. As mentioned already, when the light turns yellow, too many people try to beat the light. When the light turns green, it is important to carefully enter the intersection, even though you have the right-of-way. There could be another driver still in the intersection, causing a crash when you pull out. With a four-way stop intersection, sometimes people coming from another direction run the stop sign. Always scan the intersection and traffic from the opposite directions carefully before pulling into the intersection.
When driving through an intersection, these tips can help keep you safe. Teaching your teen driver the dangers to watch for can also help them develop good driving habits in the intersection. Staying safe behind the wheel and doing your part to keep intersections safe is everyone’s responsibility.