Why Are Fatal Intersection Accidents So Common?No matter how long you’ve been driving, the chances are good you’ve seen more than one intersection accident, usually around a shopping plaza or on a rural road. Intersection collisions happen pretty often, and the force of the impact can easily lead to the death of a driver, passenger, pedestrian, cyclist, or motorcycle rider.

Knoxville drivers know all about dangerous intersections. According to a AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety study, “eastbound Western Avenue (SR 62) at the I-640/I-75 southbound off-ramp, [and] westbound Chapman Highway (U.S. 441) at Stone Road” are two of the most dangerous intersections in the country, WATE reports. In case you were wondering, these are the only two intersections in Tennessee that made the top 10.

So today, we’re going to take a look at why intersections happen so often, and why they often result in fatalities.

What are the main causes of intersection accidents?

According to the Insurance Information Institute (III), the following are common causes of intersection accidents:

  • Erratic lane changes
  • Improper signaling
  • Speeding
  • Tailgating
  • Failing to yield the right of way
  • Making an improper turn
  • Failing to obey traffic signals and signs
  • Prohibited turning or passing
  • Inching out into the intersection and turning left after the traffic light has turned to red
  • Speeding through the intersection
  • Turning right through a small opening
  • Entering/existing in the wrong direction
  • Forcing other traffic (oncoming) in the intersection to brake
  • Running a yellow light

What do all of these have in common? They’re all examples of driver negligence. In each of these scenarios, a driver failed to follow the rules of the road, or was distracted or reckless, and the result was a collision.

Of course, not all fatal collisions are caused by a negligent driver. Other causes for intersection accidents include:

  • Improper signage. Cities and states are responsible for maintaining road signs. If the signs are missing or inaccurate, a driver may believe he or she has the right of way, when in fact he or she does not.
  • Poor visibility. Rural roads are especially vulnerable to this issue. Improper lighting – especially on curvy, hilly roads – may make it impossible for a driver to determine just how far away another driver is, or to judge the distance to the next stop sign. Rural roads may be less likely to have street lights or reflective paint to indicate distances, which can create dangerous conditions.
  • Broken signals. It is rare, but a broken signal may indicate it is safe to make a turn when it is not, or fail to let a driver know he or she needs to slow down.
  • Defective auto parts. Brake failure and spontaneous acceleration can lead to an intersection when the driver is trying to do the right thing. So can a blown tire.

What you should know about left-turn accidents

One of the most common intersection auto accidents is that of the left turn accident. These accidents are incredibly dangerous, and can result in serious bodily injury and even death. Left turn crashes occur because of the following:

  • Misjudging the speed of the other vehicle
  • Having an obstructed view while making a turn
  • Miscalculating the distance across the intersection
  • Driving into a blind spot
  • Failing to yield the right of way or failing to signal properly

Fatal intersection statistics

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported that between 1997 and 2004,* there were more than 64,000 fatalities caused by more than 57,000 crashes in intersections across the country. That averages out to roughly 7,000 fatalities per year caused by intersection crashes.

The study found that failing to obey traffic signals (62 percent) and improperly yielding to other traffic (87 percent) were the primary causes of fatal intersection crashes. In a 2010 study from the NHTSA,* the following pre-crash events led to intersection crashes:

  • Vehicle traveling off the road – 22 percent
  • Other vehicle stopped – 12.2 percent
  • Vehicle traveling over the lane marker – 10.9 percent
  • Vehicle lost control due to excessive speed – 5 percent
  • Other vehicle traveling in the same direction – 4.8 percent
  • Vehicle lost control due to poor road conditions – 2.1 percent

*Note: these were the last comprehensive studies done by the NHTSA regarding intersection accidents. The numbers, it is safe to assume, have only gone up over the last 11 years.

Why some intersections are inherently dangerous

You might do everything possible to drive safely and still find yourself involved in an accident in a Knoxville intersection. It could be that the intersection is inherently dangerous. Causes of intersection danger can include any of the following:

  • High traffic volume
  • Poor visibility throughout the intersection
  • Lack of appropriate signage
  • Absence of a marked turning lane

Some other factors include jaywalkers, traffic lights that suddenly begin to blink, or emergency vehicles speeding through the intersection causing panic.

The type of crash matters when it comes to fatal intersection accidents

T-bone crashes – where one car smashes into the side of another car, creating a “T” shape – are among the most deadly there are, especially when it’s a passenger in a car that’s being hit by a pick-up truck or SUV.

T-bone accidents also pretty common. Per the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety (IIHS), “Side impacts accounted for… 23 percent of passenger vehicle occupant deaths,” and passenger vehicle occupants accounted for 62 percent of the total number of traffic fatality victims in 2019.

And when do most T-bone crashes occur? At intersections.

Have you been injured in an intersection crash in Knoxville? Our attorneys are ready and able to help. Banks & Jones will Fight 2 Win 4 you, and to recover the compensation you deserve. Call our office at 865-546-2141 or complete our contact form to schedule a consultation with a member of our team today.