According to Auto Accident, there are approximately 2.5 million car accidents that occur in intersections every year in the US, which involves about 40% of all car accidents in that country. Not only in the US, but in practically everywhere intersections represent a source of hazard and drivers should always be cautious and alert when crossing them.
It is a fact that the majority of accidents caused in intersections are due to drivers’ negligence. Factors such as inadequate surveillance, false assumption of others’ actions, turning with obstructed view, illegal maneuvers, internal distractions and driving under the influence of alcohol, all contribute to increasing the chances of collisions.
However, another side of the problem that is often overlooked is the design of the components of the intersection. Many times, even if the driver is in perfect driving conditions, not breaking any driving rules and paying focused attention to the traffic, a poorly designed intersection could still lead to car accidents. Some important aspects that should be taken into account are:
- Visibility Obstruction: Many accidents can happen when there is not enough visibility for the driver in the intersection, which can hinder their decision making while driving. Examples are insufficient lights, signaling positioned in a wrong place, constrained or very narrow line of sight emerging in the intersection or trees/objects placed in a way that obstructs the vision of other cars coming.
- Malfunctioning Traffic Signs: If there is any failure in the proper functioning of traffic signals, drivers could be lead to believe that it’s safe to proceed and cross the intersection while actually, it’s not. The best example would be a malfunction of showing a green light when it should have been red. Although this is not a common failure, adequate maintenance should be performed to avoid it at all costs.
- Lack of or Inadequate Traffic Signs: Especially in important intersections, where there is the convergence of a high volume of traffic in a chaotic manner, it is crucial that adequate traffic signs are placed to help drivers orientate themselves. This should be done by placing the signs in positions where drivers from all directions can read (repeating signs if necessary, without obstructions, in a readable way).
- Absence of Speed Control Systems: In determined intersections, it is particularly helpful to place speed control mechanisms to avoid possible accidents. This could include intersections in high-speed roads, intersections in places without traffic lights and even in intersections which have traffic lights but are highly complex. Controls such as radar signs and bumps can work to slow down incoming cars and help to avoid possible intersection collisions.
- Lack of Considerations to the Vicinities: The design of the intersection must take into account the present circumstances in the near environment. For instance, if there is an elementary school, elder care house or nursing home for blind people near an intersection, it is essential that proper signs, speed control and traffic lights are present and clearly visible to help avoid accidents.
Hence, while the majority of intersection accidents still are caused by drivers’ negligence, the design aspects of intersections cannot be overlooked, as they play an essential role in reducing the potential number of collisions. Similarly, their poor design can also lead to an increase in the number of crashes. It is of prime importance that cities, governments and proprietaries of intersections’ terrains understand the implications of the aforementioned points and put safe design guidelines into practice in order to ensure that drivers do not run into accidents while crossing intersections.