Left-Turn Collisions

Tulsa Left-Turn Collisions

Left-turn collisions are considered one of the greatest threats to motorcycle riders. Bikers frequently sustain significant bodily damage. In many cases, a motorcyclist will suffer catastrophic or life-threatening injuries.

What Constitutes a Left-Turn Accident Involving Motorcycles?

A left-turn collision involves a car or truck turning left and failing to recognize oncoming motorcycles. In most cases, a motor vehicle collides with a biker going through the intersection:

Motorists Turning Left at an Intersection

When an intersection stoplight does not have a left turn light or arrow, cars and trucks can only turn when there are no oncoming vehicles. When traffic is heavy, motorists can wait a long time to make a left turn.

Most drivers ease out into the intersection and wait for the light to turn yellow, taking advantage of cars slowing to a stop and quickly turn left. Cars and trucks can hit motorcyclists coming from the other direction if they go through the yellow light at the same time.

Motorcyclists Turning Right at an Intersection

Intersections and four-way-stop stops are full of hazards. Motorists must be alert to changing lights, road signs, and who has the right of way. At the same time, drivers must watch for pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorcycle riders.

Motorcycles are notoriously difficult to see on the road, especially at intersections. When a car is waiting to turn left, a right-turning motorcycle on the opposing side can be very challenging to spot. Oklahoma’s road safety initiatives and the National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA) Share the Road campaign places the responsibility on automobile drivers to actively look for motorcycle riders.

Motorists anxiously waiting to turn left can easily be distracted by a stoplight. Impatient drivers will stare at the traffic light until it changes and immediately turn left. When motorists fail to notice a motorcycle rider turning right at the opposite end of the intersection, they can collide in a serious car crash.

Motorists Failing to Check Blind Spots

Another type of left-turn collision can happen when a motorist fails to check their blind spots before turning left. Motorcycles are small, rarely eye-catching, and can easily be overlooked in a blind spot.

When car or truck drivers fail to check their blind spots, they may turn into a biker’s lane or directly into the motorcycle rider themselves. This scenario is common when motorcycles attempt to pass a motor vehicle, and the car or truck suddenly turns left.

Who Has the Right of Way?

Knowing who has the right of way is critical at any intersection. Traffic signals make the right of way very clear in most scenarios. However, situations involving turning left with a flashing yellow arrow can leave motorists uncertain.

Three and four-way stops can be confusing at times, especially when multiple vehicles seemingly pull up at once. Regardless of the right of way, some motorists try to be considerate and wave others through a stop or yield sign. The best way to ensure the safety of all motorists is to follow the proper right of way laws:

Basic Rules of the Road

Most automobile drivers know to yield to traffic when entering a street. In addition, motorists must:

  • Yield to emergency vehicles, pulling off to the shoulder of the road if necessary
  • Stop for school buses across all lanes of traffic, regardless of the direction

School children have been known to dart from behind or in front of buses. All motorists must stop until the bus resumes its route.

Intersections with traffic lights

While drivers are familiar with the standard three lights, there are other signals that some motorists misinterpret. Left-turn arrow lights seem basic:

  • Green gives the left-turning motorist the right of way
  • Solid yellow means slow to a stop; the light will turn red momentarily
  • A blinking yellow arrow allows a left-turning driver to proceed with caution

However, whether the left-turning vehicle has the right of way with an arrow depends on the circumstances. According to Oklahoma Law Enforcement, the following two scenarios will impact who has the right of way during a flashing yellow left-turn signal:

  • A motorist making a left turn must yield to a right-turning vehicle if they are turning into the same lane
  • A left-turning car may proceed with extreme caution if they and the right-turning driver are turning into separate lanes

If a left-turning motorist hits a right-turning motorcyclist on a flashing yellow arrow, they would be considered responsible for the left-turn collision.

Intersections with stop and yield signs

When a three-way or four-way intersection has a stop or yield sign, there are a few scenarios that will affect who has the right of way:

  • If a motorcycle and a motorist arrive at the intersection at the same time, the vehicle on the right will may proceed first
  • When one vehicle has a stop sign and the other has a yield sign, the motorist with the yield sign has the right of way
  • If two vehicles arrive simultaneously and are on opposite sides of the intersection, directional signaling or blinkers are needed to avoid turning into each other. When both are turning into the same lane, the motorist on the right side may proceed first.

A significant number of left-turn collisions can be avoided if motorists familiarize themselves with the proper right of way laws.

Motorcycle Accidents Caused by Left-Turns

Left-turn collisions cause a significant number of motorcycle injuries. According to the Insurance Information Institute, an estimated 84,000 motorcyclists suffered serious or critical injuries in the last reporting year. In addition, more than 5,000 bikers have been killed on US roads, representing 14% of all traffic fatalities.

A 30-year study from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) researched the causes of fatal motorcycle accidents involving passenger cars. The study found:

  • 85% of fatal motorcycle collisions involve cars, trucks, and other passenger vehicles
  • More than 35% of motorcycle accidents are caused by a passenger vehicle failing to yield the right of way to a biker
  • 53% of motorcycle crashes involve left turns

Motorcyclists are disproportionately hurt in traffic collisions. Over the 30-year study:

  • Motorcycle riders represent 90% of all fatalities
  • 8% were motorcycle passengers
  • Only 2% of deaths were represented by passenger car occupants

Injuries suffered by motorcyclists are so severe that several cities have considered creating no-left-turn road medians.

Motorcycle Riders Suffer Serious Injuries in Left-Turn Collisions

Left-turn collisions are particularly dangerous for motorcyclists. Most involve a passenger vehicle striking a motorcycle and throwing the rider off and into the road.

The most common serious injuries sustained in left-turn collisions:

  • Head injuries
  • Traumatic brain injuries
  • Neck and back injuries
  • Crush injuries
  • Spinal cord damage
  • Loss of limb and amputation
  • Broken and fractured bones

Most fatal motorcycle injuries consist of blunt or penetrating trauma. Damage to the chest accounts for 80% of motorcycle rider fatal injuries.

Why Are Left-Turn Collisions So Dangerous?

Intersections are hazardous for motorcycle riders and motorists alike. The reasons why left-hand turns are so dangerous include:

  • Wider turn radius: Unlike right-hand turns, left-hand turns have a wider turn radius that allows for faster speeds. Motorists often take advantage and speed through an intersection.
  • More effort: Turning left requires more physical and mental efforts than turning right or driving straight. Motorists must concentrate on maintaining control of their vehicle while watching the traffic light, oncoming traffic, and any pedestrians or cyclists on the road or in the crosswalk.
  • Larger blind spots for passenger cars: Modern cars have increased safety features, including vertical supports on the sides of vehicles. Commonly called “A pillars,” these supports increase a car’s blind spot by 3 feet.

When a motorist fails to check their considerable blind spot or proceed through an intersection cautiously, their negligent actions can cause deadly motorcycle accidents.

What Are the Most Common Reasons for Motorcycle Accidents Caused by Left-Turn Collisions in Oklahoma?

The most common causes of left-turn collisions in Oklahoma are driver errors:

  • Speeding: Many left-turn accidents involve passenger cars rushing through the intersection.
  • Impairment: When motorists drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs, they can turn too wide or fail to see a motorcycle rider in their path.
  • Distracted driving: Distracted driving has increased considerably over the years, now accounting for more than 7,000 injuries in Oklahoma. When drivers fail to pay attention to the road, they can easily overlook a motorcycle
  • Visibility: In some cases, a vehicle’s view is blocked by objects, signs, or other cars and trucks. If a motorist fails to drive cautiously while making a left turn, they can strike a motorcycle going through the intersection.
How Motorcycle Riders Can Help Prevent Tulsa Left-Turn Collisions

There will always be a degree of negligent driving from motorists. Despite the law and serious consequences, some drivers will take left turns too fast and fail to look for motorcycles.

However, bikers can lower the chances of being struck by left-turning cars and trucks by following some helpful tips:

  • Motorcyclists can increase their visibility by wearing bright or light-reflecting clothing
  • Stay cautious and alert while proceeding through an intersection
  • Remain aware of cars and trucks and anticipate a driver’s move
  • Take a defensive driving course for motorcycles

Riding a motorcycle takes exceptional skill. Even the best bikers in the world can still be injured in a left-turn collision when motorists act negligently. At Graves McLain, our motorcycle accident attorneys are here to assist with personal injury claims. Call (918) 359-6600 to schedule a free consultation and speak with a left-turn collision lawyer today.

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