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Limiting left-hand turns could reduce car accident rate

Many South Carolina residents use their vehicles on a daily basis to get to work or drop their children off at school. While behind the wheel, there's a good chance that drivers take one or more left-hand turns without thinking twice about doing so. The reality is that this routine maneuver is much more dangerous than many might think.

According to crash data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, left-hand turns cause nearly 10 times as many accidents as turning right. Specifically, 53.1 percent of accidents in which a motorist crosses a lane of traffic involve a left-hand turn.

A brief look at the anatomy of left-hand turns reveals just how a simple action can become tragic. Immediately after a left-hand turn is initiated, drivers cross over one or more lanes of oncoming traffic. Next, drivers are likely to pass through a crosswalk at the intersection. In many cases, pedestrians are given the green light at the same time as drivers who are turning left. And, finally, drivers obviously enter into a new lane of traffic. It’s clear that there are several moments at which an accident could occur.

In particular, pedestrians are put at risk in this situation. A moment's worth of inattention can cause a driver to overlook anyone who enters a crosswalk. The unfortunate consequences of this are reflected in statistics compiled by public officials in New York City. This data shows that pedestrians were three times as likely to be killed by a driver turning left than those making a right-hand turn.

Realistically speaking, people aren't going to completely eliminate turning left from their driving habits. It simply may not be possible. However, drivers should never lose sight of their most important objective: safety.

Source: The Washington Post, "The case for almost never turning left while driving," Matt McFarland, April 9, 2014

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