(Bitter) Sweet 16 Series: No Right Way to Make a Left Turn

Since I (loosely) embraced this teaching-my-daughter-how-to-drive period of my life, I’ve gotten really close to being struck by another vehicle “only” three times. What was the common denominator, you ask? The infamous left turn.

In each case, my daughter Maddi was so focused on what she was doing and how to make the turn that she forgot that the oncoming traffic had the right of way. YIKES.

This caused me to scream and her to declare me the worst teacher ever. But who would blame me? We were fortunate, however, that each time the other driver had enough time to hit the brakes.

This made me wonder about left turns and how many accidents happen when drivers make a lefty. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find too many stats on left turns compared to right ones, but I did learn more about roundabouts. A roundabout is a circular intersection or junction in which road traffic flows in one direction around a central island. It negates the needs for a left turn and has appropriate roadway curvature to reduce vehicle speeds.

Of course, I had heard about roundabouts before and how they were believed to be much safer. Yet we don’t have them where I live in Pennsylvania, so that doesn’t really help me.

Compared to other types of intersections, roundabouts have demonstrated safety and other benefits, according to the Federal Highway Administration. They include:

  • more than a 90 percent reduction in fatalities.
  • 76 percent reduction in injuries.
  • 35 percent reduction in all crashes.

Did you know that several years ago UPS actually changed their drivers’ routes to avoid all left turns? The company said the decision was made because of safety and efficiency.

What to do?

It might be inconvenient to do what UPS did and change our routes to only include right turns. But we can emphasize caution when our teen drivers (and us older people, too) are making a left turn. Be especially cautious when you’re at a light waiting to make a left turn and the light turns yellow.

Also pay attention to what other vehicles are doing when they’re making a turn – especially when you’re at an intersection.

I’m now back in the car with her after those near misses – hopefully being a little more calm, and, of course, always watching out for those left turns.

Read the next installment of this regular series.

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