What Are the Dangers of Intersections?

What Are the Dangers of Intersections? Intersections require attention and cooperation between the drivers to keep them safe. Many accidents happen at intersections because someone was intentionally breaking the law or not paying attention.

They’re also a common place for car accidents. In 2019, there were at least 10,180 traffic fatalities involving intersections. A complex meeting of cars, cyclists, trucks, and pedestrians, it’s no wonder that there are more accidents at intersections than nearly anywhere else. The U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) reports that “more than 50 percent of the combined total of fatal and injury crashes occur at or near intersections.”

Why do intersection accidents happen?

Most intersection accidents are the result of driver negligence, poor design, or a combination of both. One of the riskiest areas in any city or town is the stretch of roadway near a shopping complex or retail outlet. In an interview with Vox, municipal engineer and urban planner Charles Marohn deemed these “’stroads’: places that try to be both a street, with access to shopping and leisure, and a road, where drivers move from place to place at high speeds, but do neither well.” Stroads are incredibly dangerous because they “combine 30- or 40-plus mph speeds with frequent turns, stopping points, and shared traffic with pedestrians and bikes, which creates many opportunities for crashes.” They are also places defined by intersections, which may or may not have lights, crosswalks, or turning lanes.

In some cases, intersections may have no signs at all. The FHWA calls intersections without signage “uncontrolled,” unsignalized intersections. They are most common in rural and residential areas, and based on the 2018 data, far more likely to be the site of a fatal crash. Of the more than 10,000 fatal intersection accidents FHWA reported in 2018, 6,737 – a full two-thirds – involved unsignalized intersections.

Of course, many of these collisions involved drivers, pedestrians, or cyclists who were not obeying traffic laws. Common acts of negligence that lead to intersection crashes include:

  • Distracted driving: This can happen due to any number of distractions in and outside of the car, whether that’s one’s phone, food, drink, kids in the back seat, or a cute dog being walked on the sidewalk nearby. It is important to be always attentive to the road, especially when at intersections.
  • Speeding: Speeding is the most common traffic violation. A speeding driver takes a longer amount of time to stop, because an object in motion stays in motion unless there’s a force to stop it. A speeding driver may not have the reflexes necessary to avoid a collision with another car, person, or object.
  • Running a light: We’ve all thought we could make a red light when we really could not. Often, this attempt to “beat the red” is what causes intersection crashes, as the driver who has the green light has already entered the intersection.
  • Refusing to yield right of way: At an intersection, knowing who has right of way is key: “As a general rule, you should yield to cars that are already at the intersection. Whoever arrives at the intersection first gets to go first. And similar to stop sign etiquette, you should yield to the car on your right when in doubt.”

How long does it actually take to stop a car?

A car traveling at 55mph takes about 6 seconds to come to a full stop. The issue is not really the amount of time; it’s the amount of feet a driver needs to stop a moving vehicle. Autos.com offers the following explanation:

A vehicle is traveling 25 miles per hour, and a pedestrian enters the roadway. It takes two seconds for the driver to see the pedestrian, decide to stop the vehicle, and then press the brake. That means the before the driver has time to react, the car has continued moving at 25 mph for 2 whole seconds. The vehicle has moved 55 feet before they even press the brake. If the car has an average stopping distance from 25 to 0 of 30 feet that means that the car will have moved a total of 85 feet down the roadway before it comes to a stop. That’s the length of 8 Toyota Camrys parked end-to-end, and that’s under perfect road conditions.

Because of this human factor, as speeds increase, the stopping distance increases dramatically. At 30mph the stopping distance is much greater—109 feet. At 35 mph it goes up to 136 feet, and you’re not really speeding yet. Switch up the numbers to freeway speeds—60 mph has a stopping distance of around 305 feet. That’s the length of an entire football field to stop.

What types of crashes can you get into at Kansas City intersections?

Intersection accidents can involve multiple cars and trucks. Even if only two cars hit on initial impact, the force can be enough to push one vehicle into others. The more common intersection crashes include:

  • T-bones, or broadside collisions
  • Sideswipes
  • Head-on crashes
  • Collisions with stationary objects, such as medians or traffic lights
  • Pedestrian accidents
  • Bicyclist accidents
  • Work zone accidents

What sort of injuries can you suffer in an intersection crash?

The reason intersections are so dangerous is because the accidents you can get into at them are extremely injurious. These accidents are not “gentle taps” to the bumper of your car, but full on collisions, often at high speeds. The injuries one can receive include:

  • Traumatic brain injuries: Traumatic brain injuries are common at intersections, due to the head colliding with the steering wheel or other objects in the car. Traumatic brain injuries can lead to a lifetime of life changing conditions including loss of cognitive function and memory.
  • Spinal cord injuries: When too much pressure or compression is put on the spine, it can injure the discs, bones, muscles, and nerves there. Spinal cord injuries can lead to partial or full paralysis, along with a lifetime of pain and hardship.
  • Broken bones: Broken bones, while common, are not minor injuries. They can take months to fully heal, and even then can leave the person with long-lasting pain and scars.
  • Burns: From first degree to third, burns are nothing to be scoffed at. Third degree burns are extremely painful and damaging, and can leave you with disfiguring scars.
  • Organ damage: Organ damage can be fatal if not treated immediately. For example, in a serious car accident, a broken rub can puncture a lung, the spleen, or even a blood vessel in the heart. Blunt force trauma can cause serious injuries to the kidneys, too.
  • Amputations: Whether the accident itself causes you to lose an arm, or the injuries from the accident are so great that one of your limbs needs to be removed, amputation is a terrible possible injury you can sustain from an accident at an intersection.

As proven, intersections can be extremely dangerous. When other people drive recklessly or  are not paying attention, it can  lead to serious injuries for themselves and even those who were following the rules of the road. If you have been injured in an accident at an intersection, contact one of our Kansas City-based car accident attorneys, and we’ll fight to get you the compensation you deserve. Contact us at our offices in Kansas City, Lee’s Summit, Parkville, and St. Joseph, Olathe and Overland Park by calling us at 816-471-5111, or filling out our contact form.