Making a left turn is one of the more dangerous driving maneuvers, particularly in countries like the U.S. where we drive on the right side of the road. Left turns are far riskier than right turns, because turning left generally goes against the flow of traffic, and full acceleration is often required to complete the turn within the allotted time the driver is given. This requires more mental and physical effort on the part of the driver in order to accurately judge the distance and time needed to make the turn, and it requires the vehicle to work harder as well.
A crash factor study conducted by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) found that making a left turn is nearly two times as hazardous as driving straight, and nearly 20 times as hazardous as making a right turn. Turning left also tends to waste fuel because of the acceleration required. This along with the dangers of this maneuver have prompted UPS, one of the world’s largest transportation companies, to eliminate left turns from their drivers’ routes.
Is the Driver Turning Left Always at Fault if a Collision Occurs?
In general, the driver who turns left is usually considered responsible for any subsequent accident. The car turning left has the lowest priority, and the driver must wait until everything is clear and they can make the turn safely before entering an area where there may be oncoming vehicle traffic. The only time a driver turning left clearly has the right-of-way is when they have a green left turn arrow.
Although the left turn driver is considered to be at fault for an accident in most cases, there are some notable exceptions to this rule:
The Oncoming Driver was Speeding
There are instances when the driver turning left has a clear path to make the turn safely, but then an oncoming vehicle appears to come out of nowhere and crashes into them. This could happen because the driver of the oncoming vehicle was speeding. When there is an accident that results from exceeding the speed limit and violating traffic laws, the driver who violated these laws could certainly be held responsible. This can be difficult to prove, however, because the left turn driver and other witnesses can only estimate the speed of the oncoming driver, and that driver is not likely to admit to speeding. In such cases, it is very helpful to have video footage of the incident either from a stoplight camera or a vehicle dashboard camera.
Another Driver Ran a Stop Sign or Red Light
If one of the vehicles involved in the collision went through a stop sign or red light and crashed into the vehicle turning left, the driver of that vehicle would most likely be to blame. Again, this would be a traffic violation that directly resulted in an accident. This type of violation is also much easier to prove than speeding as witnesses can clearly see if someone blows through a stop sign or stop light.
There are times when it is safe to make a left turn at the time the driver initiates it, but something unexpected impedes the vehicle’s progress and causes a crash. For example, the driver is forced to slam on the brakes because an animal jumps out in front of them, or the vehicle has trouble accelerating because of a faulty part or negligent maintenance. Depending on the specific circumstances, another party may be at least partially to blame for the accident.
There may be other circumstances that influence the determination of fault in a left turn accident. For example, one of the other drivers involved may have been legally intoxicated, and their chemical impairment was a contributing factor in the crash. Or another driver may have been sending a text on his/her cell phone and did not see the left turn driver until it was too late.
When circumstances are more complicated and it is not clear who was responsible, the parties involved may each share some of the blame. When this is the case, the state’s comparative fault laws would come into play. Pennsylvania uses a modified comparative negligence standard, and an injured party can still recover compensation as long as they were not more than 50% responsible for the underlying accident. However, their compensation award would be reduced in proportion to the percentage of fault they share in the accident.
Injured in a Left-Turn Accident in Pennsylvania? Contact Caroselli, Beachler & Coleman, L.L.C. for Assistance
If you or a loved one suffered injury in a left-turn accident, you may have a right to compensation, even if you were partially at fault. But before speaking to an insurance adjuster or providing them any type of statement, get in touch with an experienced auto accident lawyer to discuss your case.
If your accident happened in
Pennsylvania, call Caroselli, Beachler & Coleman, L.L.C. today at 412-567-1232
or toll-free at 866-466-5789, or message us online to schedule a free
consultation. We will meet with you to review your case and inform you of your
legal rights and options.