As part of New York City’s continuing Vision Zero initiative to help mitigate, and hopefully eliminate serious injuries and deaths caused by traffic collisions, the New York City Department of Transportation (DOT) established the Don’t Cut Corners: Left Turn Pedestrian and Bicycle Crash Study in order to better understand the dangers of left-hand turns in NYC. Through their analyses of bicyclist and pedestrian fatalities between 2010 and 2014, researchers noted that left-hand turns caused twice as many fatalities as right-hand turns.
The three core reasons, according to the DOT, as to why turning left is so much deadlier than turning right are:
- Because drivers can make wider turns when going left, they can accelerate to faster speeds and cause more damage when colliding with a pedestrian or bicyclist.
- Parked cars and their vehicle’s A-pillar obstructs the driver’s view more in left-hand turns than right-hand turns.
- Turning left requires much more effort, both physical and mental, on the part of the driver; they need to navigate more lanes of traffic moving in different directions while also taking into account people using the crosswalk.
By adding in bicyclists and pedestrians severely injured in left-hand turn accidents to the fatality statistics, the difference between turning left or turning right only become worse. Bicyclists and pedestrians are three times more likely to be killed or severely injured in left-hand turns compared to right-hand turns. On top of that, 70 percent of collisions involved vehicles turning from a one-way street on to a two-way street.
According to the DOT, senior citizens are the most at risk of being killed in a left-hand turn collision. Their study showed that the median age of bicyclists and pedestrians killed is 67 years old, compared to a median age of 50 for right-hand turns. The researchers believe that this may be due to the increased speeds drivers can reach while turning left causing more damage to frail older persons.
The DOT has a long list of ideas they plan to implement in order to limit the number of bicyclists and pedestrians killed in left-hand turn collisions, but those changes won’t happen immediately. While drivers need to take extra precautions to avoid causing more fatalities, it’s important to keep yourself safe, look both ways when crossing the street, and be ready to move if you sense danger.