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What Makes Left Turns So Dangerous?

After breaking down the reasons why left turns are so dangerous, it's also obvious how difficult a problem they are to solve.
May 13, 2015, 5am PDT | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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"One of the most challenging maneuvers for a driver to make — a left turn — is also one of its most dangerous for pedestrians," according to an article by Kate Hinds.

Hinds opens the story with an anecdote from New York about a pedestrian getting struck by a car turning left. The collision occurred despite the police report's claim that "All traffic devices were obeyed."

The legality of the situation is only one of the problems with the left turn, according to Hinds. Another big problem is the decision making stress it puts on drivers.

"Anne McCartt, senior vice president for research at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, says left turns are tricky because drivers must make a complex series of judgments in a short period of time. Is the light about to turn? Are all the oncoming lanes clear? And why is the guy behind me honking?"

Hinds notes that there is even a term for that "split-second decision-making workout." It's called the driver workload. The bigger the workload, the more likely a mistake.

But wait, there's more. Hinds also details how changes to the structure of cars in the United States, which contribute to blind spots that occur right where pedestrians are often located.

The article concludes with discussion about the steps New York City is taking to improve crosswalk and left turn safety, though it remains a difficult and troubling challenge.

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Published on Thursday, May 7, 2015 in WNYC
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