Safe Driving at Intersections

Safe Driving at Intersections

Intersections are locations where two or more roads meet, cross or converge and traffic moving in different directions all come together. Intersections can be described as one of the most complex traffic situations that motorists, pedestrians, cyclists and other road users encounter almost daily. The crossing and turning manoeuvres that occur at intersections create opportunities for vehicle-vehicle, vehicle-pedestrian, and vehicle-bicycle conflicts, which may result in traffic crashes. In any country around the world, intersection safety is a top priority in road traffic accident prevention. Road safety practitioners in Zimbabwe are working on ensuring that appropriate measures are implemented to make road intersections safer for all users.

A number of different intersection crash types occur, including: collisions between oncoming vehicles; rear-end crashes; as well as side impact collisions or “T-bones”.  These types of crashes typically involve a driver on one side running a red light; side-swipe collisions where one or more vehicles are turning; as well as collisions into vulnerable road user such as pedestrians and cyclists while turning.

As you approach an intersection, always make sure you slow down. In fact, approach every intersection with extreme caution. First look to the right, then to the left, then to the right again. Always remember to give precedence to vehicles approaching you on a road to your right, unless the intersection is controlled by a stop or yield sign, traffic lights or a police officer. At uncontrolled intersections, you must give precedence to vehicles approaching you from the road to your right. Owing to the fact that it may not be easy to see oncoming traffic when turning into a T-shaped intersection, it is advisable to stop and look before you turn. If you are not sure about whether to go or stop, the best thing to do is to stop. Intersection accidents can happen for a wide variety of reasons. However, some of the most common reasons include speeding, distracted driving, driver fatigue, poor intersection design, following too closely, improper lane changing, failure to obey traffic control devices and signs, making improper turns as well as drunk driving. Speeding is the leading cause of fatalities related to intersections. Intersection accidents are so dangerous, because, usually, a driver will be accelerating in order to avoid a red light, and he or she will either enter the intersection at high speed or attempt to slam on the brakes, causing an accident behind.

Roundabouts are an effective speed calming measure. Fewer and less serious crashes, occur at intersections with roundabouts than at intersections with signals or stop signs. Clear road markings and signing are low-cost methods of improving safety at intersections. Improving lighting at intersections reduces collisions at night – and also reduces criminal activity at intersections. Innovative use of “traffic calming” measures such as speed bumps is also important in ensuring safe driving at intersections. As a driver, you should always drive defensively, anticipating problems and situations with heightened caution and attention, especially during congested traffic times such as rush hour. Think about what other drivers might do as you approach intersections, particularly when you are altering your path approaching an intersection. It is dangerous to assume that because another road user ought to yield precedence to you, he or she will necessarily do so. Always expect the unexpected. Avoid all driver distractions – all your focus is required when approaching an intersection. Always wear your seatbelt and insist that everyone in your vehicle wear theirs. Do not speed at intersections.

Always know the rules of the road at intersections. It is important to also remember that emergency vehicles have precedence. Remain stopped and still until the emergency vehicle has completely cleared the area of the intersection. Always watch out for pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists. When making a left turn, remember to give special precedence to pedestrians who may be crossing at the intersection. Use your turn signals appropriately. Without the proper signals, another driver may not be aware that you are turning and may pull out in front of you or hit you. Always give a turning signal before you turn or change lanes and be sure that you are in the correct lane before you signal your intention to turn. Properly maintain your vehicle. Malfunctioning warning lights (turn signals, brakes, headlights) make it difficult for other motorists to predict your actions on the roadway. Always watch out for tractors or other heavy vehicles pulling trailers. Collisions involving trailers often fatal and also cause extensive damages to vehicles and other properties.

Knowing the major risks of an intersection collision and how to avoid them can help to minimize your chance of being involved in such a crash. Too many road users are either killed or left with injuries from preventable crashes at intersections. It is important for road users to accept that every intersection is dangerous due to the constant flow of traffic – day and night. Being aware of the laws and taking precautions behind the wheel are essential and useful steps to avoid an intersection collision. As a road user, plan your trip to avoid rushing to make an appointment. Have long and short range foresight and avoid schedule delays. The intersection is, indeed, not a place for selfishness. Always be prepared to show courtesy towards other drivers.

The Traffic Safety Council of Zimbabwe emerged from the Zimbabwe Traffic Safety Board which originated from a voluntary organisation composed of area associations in Harare (then Salisbury), Bulawayo, Gweru (then Gwelo) and Mutare (then Umtali).

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