NEW YORK. According to a recent NPR report, left turns are responsible for a quarter of all pedestrian accidents in the U.S. In New York City, where both pedestrians and drivers are competing for space at intersections, left turns are particularly dangerous. Left turns pose a unique hazard because both pedestrians and drivers have the green light and the right of way. Of course, drivers should always yield to pedestrians in crosswalks, but pedestrian safety often is contingent on drivers being aware that there are pedestrians there in the first place. According to NPR, the highest number of pedestrian fatalities occurred in New York State.
According to the New York City Department of Transportation, left turns are responsible for twice as many bike and pedestrian fatalities as right turns, and they account for three times the number of fatal injuries. Last year alone, 17 pedestrians and bikers were killed by left turning drivers. In an attempt to reduce the number of fatalities and injuries, New York City has implemented safety measures, including barriers near crosswalks that prevent drivers from turning left too close to the sidewalk. Many accidents occur close to the sidewalk, when both the driver and the pedestrian are obeying their green and walk signals simultaneously. By creating some space, pedestrians have more time to see turning drivers and drivers may also have more time to observe pedestrians. In other areas where the risk to pedestrians is high, the New York Department of Transportation has decided to restrict left turns altogether.
What can drivers do to be more aware? For one, when making a left turn, always check for pedestrians. Slower left turns also give you more time to stop should you miss something. Finally, it is also important to be aware of your car’s blind spots. The metal pillar between your windshield and left window can block your view of pedestrians. As car safety features have improved, the pillars have grown wider, blocking more of the view. While you are turning, the blind spot can track with the pedestrian, completely obscuring the person from your view.
Pedestrians can keep themselves safe by obeying traffic signals, but by also looking before they cross. However, at the end of the day, pedestrians and bikers are the more vulnerable road users and it can be difficult to move out of the way quickly if a car decides to speed through a left turn.
At the end of the day, all stakeholders need to be aware of their surroundings. Antin, Ehrlich, & Epstein, L.L.P. are personal injury lawyers in New York who work closely with victims and families impacted by accidents in the city. Left turn accidents can be particularly complex because under the law, all parties had the right of way. Our firm will take the time to review your case, estimate the value of your claim, and help you seek the damages you may deserve to cover your medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering.