In many circumstances, the driver who made the left-hand turn that resulted in a collision is at fault. This is because most states enforce a law that declares that drivers making left-hand turns must yield to oncoming vehicles. Oncoming vehicles are considered to have the right of way if there are no stop signs or traffic lights to be adhered to. However, in some instances, the driver who turned left and was in a collision as a result is not found at fault.
In this article, we explore why left-hand turns are dangerous, who’s at fault in left-hand turn collisions, instances in which a driver making a left-hand turn may not be at fault, and what to do after a left-hand collision.
Why Are Left-Hand Turns Dangerous?
Making a left-hand turn while driving can be a highly dangerous maneuver compared to other decisions made on the road. This type of turn requires several judgment calls that must be made in a brief period of time. These judgment calls include how fast oncoming traffic is going, the amount of time left before a light turns from green or yellow to red, and whether other drivers are driving safely and following the rules of the road.
Additional reasons why making left-hand turns can be dangerous include:
- Left-hand turns require more mental energy than right turns, so making a left turn when tired, distracted, or intoxicated can be especially hazardous
- Left-hand turns require drivers to cross at least one lane of traffic
- Making a left-hand turn can disturb the flow of traffic
- Drivers making a left-hand turn may have a blocked or limited view of all traffic lanes
- Many drivers accelerate when making left-hand turns, so a collision with pedestrians or other vehicles can be more dangerous than right-hand turns
- Left-hand turns require drivers to use their turn signals, which is something that not everyone does
- Left-hand turning requires drivers to be aware of cars coming from three different directions
As you can see, making a left-hand turn requires significant mental and physical effort as well as quick judgment when compared to right-hand turns. All of the factors listed above put drivers at risk for collisions when making left-hand turns.
Who Is At Fault In A Left-Turn Collision?
Most states impose laws that denote that drivers making left-hand turns must yield to oncoming traffic. Before making a left-hand turn, drivers must ensure that all roads they will cross are free and clear of traffic or other obstacles that could result in a collision.
If there is oncoming traffic, the driver making the left-hand turn must wait until the traffic has passed before completing the turn. Failing to do so would essentially put the left-hand turning driver at fault for a collision. If you make a left-hand turn and are in a car accident as a result, you will likely be considered responsible for the accident and deemed at fault by the law.
When The Driver Who Made The Left-Hand Turn Is Not At Fault
There are a few situations in which the driver who made the left-hand turn in an accident would not be considered at fault. These situations are rare, but they do happen. The following are a few common reasons in which the turning driver may not be considered liable in a left-hand turn accident.
Running Through A Stop Sign Or Traffic Light
The most common reason for a left-hand turning driver to not be held liable for the collision is when the oncoming vehicle the driver collides with drives through a stop sign or traffic light. For example, if you make a left-hand turn with the assumption that oncoming traffic is going to yield to a traffic light, and an oncoming vehicle does not yield and hits you as you are making the left-hand turn, you may not be considered at fault for the accident.
Another situation in which a left-hand turning driver may not be at fault is when oncoming traffic is moving too fast in the area where the driver is making the turn. If the vehicle the driver collides with is driving significantly over the speed limit when the accident happens, the driver may not be considered liable. However, proving how fast the oncoming traffic was traveling at the time of the collision can be difficult.
Any other circumstance in which the driver turning left initially presumed it safe to turn and then is involved in a collision as a result of a vehicle speeding or not adhering to road safety rules may also deem the left-hand turning driver as not at fault. Additionally, if the other driver (not making the left-hand turn) is driving illegally, dangerously, or under the influence, the driver making the left-hand turn may not be held liable.
Another possibility that may result in the other driver being found liable for the collision would be if an unforeseen circumstance occurs while the left-hand driver is turning. For example, if an animal ran into the road and the driver making the turn had to stop or slow down to avoid hitting the animal, the oncoming vehicle who crashes into the driver could be held liable for the accident as they did not slow down when they saw the vehicle in front of them.
How To Properly Make A Left Turn
It’s important to know how to safely make a left turn to avoid collisions and other hazardous situations.
Here are the steps to keep in mind when making a left-hand turn:
- Turn on your signal approximately 100 feet before you get to the point where you’ll make the left-hand turn
- Stop your vehicle behind the limit line (not on or over it)
- When you are at a complete stop, look to the left, then right, then to the left one more time
- Make the turn when you are completely sure there is no oncoming traffic or other hazards that may result in an accident
- When turning, do not try to cut the corner of the lane where ongoing traffic is
What To Do If You’ve Been In A Collision As A Result Of Making A Left-Hand Turn
If you’ve been in a car accident and you were the car making the left-hand turn, you should first determine who was at fault. If you know that you are at fault and that is obvious to the other driver and the police who come to the scene, there is not much you can do to fight this. However, if you were the driver turning left and you believe you are not at fault, you should contact a personal injury or car accident lawyer as soon as possible after the collision. Proving that you’re not at fault can be difficult, but a good lawyer can help you prove your case and potentially be deemed not at fault.