What Is an Intersection Collision?

Intersections are two or more roads crossing each other, with traffic flow moving in multiple directions. An “intersection collision” is a crash occurring in an intersection.

“Intersection collisions are one of the most common types of crash, and in the United States, they account for nearly 2 million accidents and 6,700 fatalities every year,” according to the FHA (2)

In New York City (NYC), 250 people died and 46,455 people suffered injuries in intersection collisions from January through November of 2021. (3)

Types of Intersection Collisions

Not surprisingly, there are several types of intersection collisions leading to fatalities and serious injuries. The International Road Assessment Programme’s (IRAP) Road Safety Toolkit lists multiple intersection crash types: (4)

  • Collisions between oncoming vehicles, involving a turn across traffic — A crossover accident is when a vehicle passes through any type of divide or barrier, such as a painted line, guard rail, or median. These crashes most often occur while making a left turn at an intersection. A National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) report finds a vehicle crossing over at an intersection is the critical pre-crash event. It makes the crash inevitable in 12.6% of intersection related crashes. (5)
  • Right-angle collisions at high speed not involving turning — The National Safety Council (NSC) says angle collisions killed 7,500 people in 2019. (6) These collisions occur when vehicles are traveling on streets perpendicular to each other. They are often the result of a failure to yield right-of-way. One example is when a driver runs a stop sign or does not stop at a traffic signal. The NYC Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) explains, “Traffic signs, signals and pavement markings do not always resolve traffic conflicts. …The right-of-way rules help resolve these conflicts.” (7)
  • Right-angle or side-swipe collisions involving turns by one or more vehicles — The impact of the collision can be anywhere on the side of the vehicle. In the U.S., 1,300 people lost their lives in side-swipe collisions during 2019. (8) An example of a right-angle or side-swipe collision involving turns is when a driver pulls up to a stop sign, then attempts a turn before it is safe.
  • Rear-end crashes — When vehicle is hit by another vehicle directly behind it, you call the situation a rear-end collision. This type of crash can be particularly deadly. In 2019, data indicate there were 2,900 deaths from rear-end collisions across the U.S. in one year. (9) And, in NYC during December 2021, the NYC Police Department reports “following too closely” as a contributing factor in 592 vehicle crashes involving fatalities and injuries. (10)

If you or a loved one have been involved in an intersection accident, contact us today for a free case evaluation.

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Causes of Intersection Accidents

The causes of intersection accidents are most often driver error. A NHTSA report finds, “Of the 787,236 intersection-related crashes, about 96 percent (756,570 crashes) had critical reasons attributed to drivers.” (11)

The NHTSA also says, “Of the 756,570 intersection-related crashes with driver-attributed critical reasons, the most frequent critical reasons were inadequate surveillance (44.1%), followed by false assumption of other’s action (8.4%), turned with obstructed view (7.8%), illegal maneuver (6.8%), internal distraction (5.7%), and misjudgment of gap or other’s speed (5.5%).” (12)

Other reasons for intersection accidents, including many indicated by IRAP, are: (13)

  • Complex intersection layout — Turning is a fundamental activity facilitated by intersections and increases accident risk. “Intersections may involve a large number of conflicting vehicle movements, which increases the opportunity for incidents to occur,” says the FHA. (14)
  • High approach speeds — Severe injuries frequently result from intersection accidents on freeways and interstates. The FHA points out, interstates and freeways “are associated with higher travel speeds, which may result in more severe injuries.” (15)
  • Inadequate sight distance to oncoming vehicles — Drivers at intersections need an unobstructed view of the intersection and all traffic control devices. The FHA cautions, “Insufficient sight distance can be a contributing factor in intersection traffic crashes. Intersection sight distance is typically defined as the distance a motorist can see approaching vehicles before their line of sight is blocked by an obstruction near the intersection.” (16)
  • Lack of gaps in traffic — Gaps are based on estimates of the time interval drivers need to move through the intersection or make turns. Gaps are often regulated by traffic control devices such as signs, signals, and roundabouts. If driver behaviors do not align with the estimated gap time allowed, “results will be a design that has insufficient capacity for turning movements and can even force drivers to make gap acceptance decisions in dangerous situations.” (17)
  • Lack of intersection visibility or awareness of the intersection — Accidents can happen when drivers are not able to clearly see intersections as they approach them. Or when drivers are not aware they are approaching an intersection. Inadequate signage and delineation are two reasons why drivers may be unaware of an intersection. This has an impact on the overall visibility of the intersection. (18)
  • Poor road surface condition — Pavement conditions can create hazards for vehicles. Ruts, potholes, and bumps can all contribute to crashes. Weather conditions such as fog, rain, sleet, snow, and ice may reduce visibility and make roads slippery. The FHA says, “Wet pavement has lower friction than dry pavement, so traction is reduced. Also, pooling of water can lead to hydroplaning and loss of vehicle control.” (19)

Simply understanding what causes intersection accidents does not always help prevent accidents, but right-of-way rules can help.

Right-of-Way Rules Prevent Intersection Accidents

One way of helping to prevent intersection accidents are to follow the rules of the road. The New York state DMV lists these right-of-way rules: (20)

  • Drivers approaching an intersection must yield right-of-way to traffic already in the intersection.
  • When two drivers approach an intersection from opposite directions and reach it at the same time, a driver turning left must yield to traffic going straight.
  • At intersections without signs or signals, the driver on the left must yield to the one on the right. This is also required when drivers arrive at stop signs at the same time and are at right angles to each other.
  • Drivers entering a roadway from a driveway, alley, or private road must yield to pedestrians or traffic already on the roadway.
  • Drivers must yield right-of-way to pedestrians in legally marked crosswalks.
  • When traffic is backed up on the opposite side of an intersection, do not enter the intersection until the traffic has cleared. Do not block the intersection.
  • Do not cause gridlock by blocking another street.
  • Drivers entering a traffic circle must yield to the drivers already in the circle.

Drivers who violate these rules are held typically liable for any accident and any injuries resulting from the accident. However, that is not always the case.

Determining Fault in an Intersection Accident

The circumstances of an incident can make the issue of fault unclear, even with right-of-way rules. For example, when a child chasing a ball suddenly cuts across the roadway in front of you, and there is no marked crosswalk. Or if you are making a turn in an intersection and a cyclist on the street you are turning onto crosses that street while you are making your turn.

In such instances, the right-of-way rules do not definitively determine the fault of the parties involved. A full investigation of the incident and all factors contributing to it are considered. These factors include each driver’s speed, coming to a full stop at stop signs, visibility, and of course, distraction.

Drivers should always be alert and maintain awareness of the traffic around them. This includes pedestrians and cyclists.

When the fault in an intersection accident case is uncertain, understanding your legal options is important.

If you suffered an injury from an intersection accident, contact us today to understand your legal rights.

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Legal Options

If you have suffered serious injuries due to an intersection accident, you may need compensation to meet medical expenses, provide financial support during recovery, and help mitigate the suffering you have endured. This is especially true when a death has resulted from the accident.

Contact an experienced attorney to help you recover. An attorney can handle relevant medical and insurance legal claims, guide you through the process, and negotiate a settlement or take your case to trial. This gives you time to focus on healing and recovery.

Reach out to an attorney after you receive any necessary immediate medical care. Do it while the accident is fresh in your mind, so you can pursue all your legal rights most effectively.

How W&L Can Help

In accident cases, Weitz & Luxenberg believes in holding responsible parties accountable. Our clients have benefited from our years of experience with personal injury cases.

Our firm is prepared to go to bat for you with the people responsible for your accident, including insurance companies. We believe in getting our clients all the compensation they deserve.

Some cases where we have been successful for our clients include:

  • Struck by a stolen car, W&L gets a verdict of $20.5 million plus for our client.
  • Run down by an ambulance in Manhattan, W&L reaches a settlement of $1.4 million for our client.
  • When a coworker’s negligent driving of a hi-lo amputated part of his leg, W&L gets a judgment of $2.96 million for our client.