Speeding, tailgating and road rage are some of the obvious dangers you’ve probably encountered on the road and are leading causes of accidents.
But several other accident hot spots don’t get as much attention. Knowing what they are, you can better keep your claims record clean and your car insurance rates down.
“A majority of accidents are caused at intersections with stop signs and traffic lights [and are] due to drivers either not paying attention or being in a life-threatening hurry,” says Jason Ratcliff, Sergeant, Franklin County Sheriff’s Office.
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration, one–half of all traffic injuries in the United States occur at intersections every year.
Ratcliff says paying attention is the best way to stay safe in or near an intersection.
“When approaching intersections, private drives and retail stores, pay particular attention to others poised on the sidelines ready to pull out in front of you,” says Ratcliff. Don’t rely on your “right of way.”
Even if it’s your turn to go through the intersection or you have a green light, look around and ask yourself, “What if that car pulls out in front of me?” suggests Ratcliff.
“And always scan cross streets for drivers whose heads might be in the clouds and don’t notice they have a red light or a stop sign,” he adds.
Those few seconds of scanning can save you from injuries and auto insurance claims headaches.
At the scene of an accident
Exiting your car if it breaks down or after an accident is high on Ratcliff’s list of no-nos.
“It’s one of the most dangerous things you can do,” he says– especially on a heavily traveled route.
You could find yourself being struck by a distracted driver.
“You should always stay in your vehicle if you’re in an accident,” says Ratcliff. “Don’t get out of your car to assist another driver.”
The best way to help a stranded motorist is by calling the police or roadside assistance and not risking your life, says Ratcliff.
“Drivers always think they can beat an oncoming car when making a left turn,” says Ratcliff.
Statistics show this is not a good idea. According to the National Motorists Association, an average motorist could drive a billion miles — the distance from Earth to Jupiter and back — before getting into an accident stemming from a right-hand turn during a red light.
Some towns are reducing left-turn accidents using a “Michigan left” intersection design, preventing motorists from making a left turn. Instead, you have to make a legal U-turn at a designated spot and then a right-hand turn back onto the street. This reduces accidents by nearly 60 percent.
Be patient when making left turns. Always use your turn signal to alert the car behind you that you’ll be slowing down and possibly stopping to turn left.
Driving up a hill (or crest) may mean returning to the other side.
You have no idea if there’s a deer in the middle of the road just on the other side of the hill or if a stopped school bus is letting kids out — unless you’re paying attention to street signs.
Many accidents and dangerous situations can be avoided by paying attention to the signs on your way up the hill.
Traffic signs will typically indicate if an intersection, driveway or school zone is nearby. And if the area is a favorite place for Bambi and friends to play, street signs will tell you that, too.
“Look around for those indicators and take appropriate precautions,” says Ratcliff. “Slow down when you’re nearing the top of the hill to make it easier to stop in case there is something in your path,” he adds.
Sitting in a truck’s blind spot
If you can’t see a commercial truck’s side view mirrors, they can’t see you.
“When they try to change lanes they’ll smash right into you,” says Ratcliff, adding that it’s best to give these vehicles plenty of room to move. And no matter what, don’t place yourself right next to them.
— Gina Roberts Grey contributed to this story.
U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration. “About Intersection Safety.” Accessed January 2023.
National Motorists Association. “Rolling Right Turns.” Accessed January 2023.