Something about turning left just ain’t right. Left turn collisions are among one of the most common traffic collisions out there (simply reverse directions if your location on the world map sees you driving on the left side of the road). The results can be quite catastrophic. Here, we’ll break down left turn collisions and take a look at how to avoid them.
In this type of collision, one vehicle is moving across a lane of traffic to enter the opposite lane while another vehicle is traveling normally along the former lane, and they make contact. Vehicles that collide in such a case might make end-to-end contact. That is, the vehicle moving across the lane might get hit on the front quarter panel or the rear quarter panel. This type of collision carries a lower risk of injury, but vehicle damage can either be expensive to repair, or irreparable. On the other hand, if the vehicle moving across the lane is hit in the middle, or at the passenger cabin area, then things are different. Severe collisions can result in death because occupants are always at risk. At best, some substantial injury is sustained and the vehicle is written off.
On a motorcycle, the risks increase. This is because, of course, there is far less protecting you and the magnitude of the impact is often very high in this sort of collision.
If you are crossing a lane on a motorcycle and are hit, then you would be lucky to avoid serious injury at minimum. In addition, expect your motorcycle to not survive the collision. If you are traveling in the lane and collide with a vehicle crossing it, then you would also be lucky to avoid serious injury because you will always be thrown off the bike. You may get thrown over the crossing vehicle or out to the side, away from the vehicle. The more surrounding traffic there is, the scarier the ramifications become.
The other dimension to this collision is when the vehicle turning left enters its destination lane and collides with a vehicle in that lane. Pulling out into traffic coming from the left is one thing, but there is still traffic coming from the right. Because the latter traffic is generally a little further away, it gets the short end of the stick in terms of attention. Again, this can be worse if you’re on a motorcycle.
If it sounds daunting, that’s because it is. However, these steps can help you avoid this type of collision:
If you are turning left
- Always come to a complete stop: Even if there is no traffic in sight, stop and take a second look.
- Pay complete attention: It’s important to be absolutely aware of what’s going on around you. Your line of sight is important, so be absolutely sure that traffic is clear by taking a good look around.
- Leave room: Remember that you really need to have the room to move. If you need to pull a Fast & Furious type of launch, then it’s probably a better idea to hold on.
- Be patient: Wait for a clear, absolute opening. If your left turn is close to an intersection, not easily visible due to a clear curve in the road, or is just before a bus stop (especially if its occupied by a bus), then take the time to take stock of the situation and/or wait for it to clear up because there is more potential for danger.
If you are traveling along the lane (in either direction)
- Adhere to the speed limit: If you need to perform a panic stop, then a lower speed = a shorter stopping distance. That could make a difference.
- Scan: Scan the road ahead for any exits onto the roadway. You’re good to go if they are empty, but take note if someone is about to pull out.
- Identify: Identify whether or not someone is actually getting ready to pull out across the roadway. Has the driver seen you or are they completely oblivious? Are they playing it safe? Don’t fall into the trap of making eye contact with the driver. Instead, pay attention to the behavior of the vehicle, specifically the front tire.
- Predict: Predict whether the driver of the vehicle is going to go ahead with the turn or stay put and wait.
- Determine: If the driver is going ahead with the turn, then you’ll need to brake or swerve, but if you driver stays put, then you’re fine. In a split second, determine what is going on and what you need to do.
- Execute: If the driver pulling out has left you no room, then you’ll need to brake. If there is an escape route, then swerve. Follow one with the other if possible.
- Use your horn if you need to: Self explanatory.
Left turn collisions can be avoided with a little more attention to detail. Traffic isn’t something you can take for granted, especially if someone is trying to merge into traffic from a dead stop. Use your head, follow the steps above, pass them along, and hopefully you can eliminate this type of collision from your life.