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What Makes an Intersection Hazardous?

What Makes an Intersection Hazardous?

What makes an intersection hazardous? Can roundabouts solve the problem of dangerous intersections? In Kansas and other states, driver error and poor design are the most common causes of accidents at intersections. As such, many cities around the country are replacing intersections on high traffic roads with roundabouts. However, while roundabouts can reduce the risk of a severe accident, they do not eliminate the potential for a motor vehicle collision altogether.

Driver Errors at Intersections

Driver errors are common causes of accidents at intersections. These errors can include failure to detect traffic signals and correctly interpret signs. They can involve underestimating the required stopping distance, inability or failure to select the appropriate lane, and misjudging their vehicle's distance from the intersection.

Other errors can include running a stop sign or stoplight, "racing" a yellow light, failure to yield the right of way, and incorrectly judging an approaching vehicle's speed as it nears the intersection.

A significant number of errors are caused by sensory overload. When a motorist is driving, their vision and other senses are bombarded with information to process. The more information, the more likely it is that a driver will miss critical details or misinterpret the data their brain is processing.

Moreover, drivers are typically distracted by conversations, road signs, vehicle controls, etc., about 30% of the time when they are behind the wheel. This further reduces the amount of information the brain can process. It is estimated that approximately 25% of intersection accidents involve at least one form of driver distraction. When approaching an intersection, these distractions can impact the driver's ability to judge motion, distance, speed, and other critical data.

The Role of Bad Intersection Design

Poor design and improperly maintained surfaces and equipment can create a hazardous intersection. Defects in intersections can include improperly marked lanes, inadequate, confusing, or obstructed signage, damaged or malfunctioning traffic signals, poorly maintained road surfaces, and lack of a median barrier. It can also include potholes and depressions that allow water to pool.

Roundabouts Aren't the End All Solution

Many cities are turning to roundabouts to solve the problems inherent on high-traffic roads. The Federal Highway Safety Administration has determined that roundabouts can reduce accidents that cause serious injury or death by as much as 82%, and those that cause any type of injury by as much as 75%. In all, roundabouts are credited with reducing motor vehicle collisions by 37%, and pedestrian collisions by 40%.

Thus, the data shows that the installation of roundabouts does not eliminate the risk entirely. Indeed, roundabouts create a host of new dangers that can make a particular intersection just as dangerous as it was before it replaced a four-way stop.

Driver uncertainty about yielding within a roundabout can cause an accident, as can driver speed, and the need for drivers to change lanes to exit the roundabout. Additionally, too many merger points can introduce a significant number of vehicles into the roundabout. This can create potentially deadly congestion. Further, roundabouts without properly protected sidewalks and bike paths can increase the risk of a pedestrian/bicyclist collision.

Contact Brad Pistotnik Law at 1-800-241-BRAD or call us on our local line at 316-684-4400. Our injury law firm represents clients in Kansas, Nebraska, Missouri, or Texas who suffer an injury at a hazardous intersection. You can call Brad Pistotnik on his cell at 316-706-5020. You can reach Tony Atterbury on his cell at 316-617-9237.