Traffic Intersections: The Most Dangerous Places on the Road

When most people imagine dangerous driving situations, they picture small, dark highways in the middle of nowhere. Indeed, such environments are chilling; the combination of high speeds, low visibility, and tight spaces requires a driver’s full attention. However, research proves that these areas are not nearly as deadly as a much more common traffic scene: the intersection.

Of all traffic collisions in the United States, 40 percent take place at intersections. Meanwhile, 50 percent of serious collisions – meaning extensive injuries and/or damage to vehicles – happen at intersections, and more than 20 percent of traffic fatalities occur in the same place. It is a gross miscalculation to approach an intersection without worry or care, and here’s why.

Types of Collisions at Intersections

Blaring horns, screeching tires, crunching metal – these are the sounds of intersection collisions. Nearly every type of collision can occur at an intersection because drivers may be participating in a number of behaviors while waiting to pass through. Because intersection crashes are so common, car accident lawyers in San Antonio and other cities should always be on call. In the event a driver experiences one of the following potentially life-changing collisions, an attorney should be ready and able to provide support.

  • Oncoming vehicle collisions. Sometimes called frontal or head-on collisions, these crashes occur when two cars heading opposite directions encounter one another. These are most likely to occur at intersections with narrow lanes. At the very least, drivers in these crashes suffer soft tissue damage (as well as significant damage to their vehicles) but more often drivers break bones, experience head trauma, and require extensive medical care.
  • Rear-end collisions. Also blandly called fender-benders, rear-end collisions occur when a car traveling behind another crashes into the back of the leader. Almost always, the trailing car is judged at-fault. Rear-end crashes typically occur at low speeds, causing minor damage, but drivers can suffer lasting injuries in their heads, spines, and soft tissues.
  • Side-impact collisions. These crashes, called T-bones for their similar appearance, occur in intersections when one vehicle slams into another’s side. There are two ways this might happen:
    • A driver turning left did not have enough time and is hit by an oncoming car
    • A driver runs through a red light or stop sign, hitting a car traveling through the intersection

Side-impact collisions are easily the deadliest of crashes, killing more people per year than the previous two crash types combined, and intersections are the only places on the road where they occur.

  • Side-swipe collisions. Side-swipe collisions are like side-impact collisions between cars traveling the same direction. Often, vehicles merging without checking mirrors will graze vehicles nearby. These crashes rarely result in lasting physical harm to drivers, but they do endanger roadways.
  • Pedestrian or cyclist collisions. Nearly 5, 000 pedestrians die every year due to collisions with vehicles in intersections. While crossing in crosswalks or bike lanes, pedestrians and cyclists can be struck by vehicles traveling in any direction. Rarely do pedestrian-vehicle collisions result in the pedestrian’s favor.
  • Rail crossing collisions. Though many level crossings are now marked with active warning systems, drivers and trains continue to collide. Because trains are heavy and fast-moving, vehicles and drivers tend to sustain tremendous damage.

Staying Safe Around Intersections

Studies suggest that most intersection collisions are the result of two primary causes: driver negligence and driver recklessness. Negligence is characterized by careless behavior that fails to consider others’ health and well-being. For example, failing to see pedestrians in a crosswalk is negligent, as is minor speeding. Conversely, recklessness is behavior that intentionally endangers lives and property. A driver who drinks alcohol before getting behind the wheel is acting recklessly, as is one who drives 100 miles per hour down residential streets.

The key to staying safe around intersections is practicing defensive driving. You should always adhere to traffic laws, even if other drivers do not, and you must remain fully alert and aware of your surroundings, even while stopped. It is smart to review your state’s traffic law manual every year or so to remind yourself of lesser-known rules, like who has right-of-way at stop signs and when merging is inappropriate. If you drive as safe as you can, you limit your likelihood of being involved in an intersection crash. Plus, if someone else collides with you, you will have full knowledge that you were driving safely and legally – so the other driver will be fully at-fault.

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Melissa Thompson

Melissa is a mother of 2, lives in Utah, and writes for a multitude of sites. She is currently the EIC of and writes about health, wellness, and business topics.