A car that turns left in front of a vehicle that is approaching from the other direction will almost always be at fault, however, there are a few exceptions, although difficult to prove, where the left turn driver may not be held liable, or at least apportion liability:
- The vehicle going straight was going too fast and sped through the intersection in excess of the speed limit.
- The left turn vehicle began its turn when it was safe, but something unexpected occurred which made it have to slow down or stop its turn.
- The vehicle that was going straight went through a red light.
Red light running frequently occurs at intersections, and because intersections involve multiple roadways, light running is the number one cause of accidents in urban areas. In order to keep yourself and others safe, it is important to know what it means to run a red light and why it is so dangerous.
Stop signs and devices, also known as traffic control devices, are placed at crossings and intersections in which the driver is required to come to a full stop. The limit line is the painted line that indicates where the driver should stop. In Illinois, the procedure under 625 ILCS 5/11-306 for stopping at a red light is:
(c) Steady red indication.
1. Except as provided in paragraphs 3 and 3.5 of this subsection (c), vehicular traffic facing a steady circular red signal alone shall stop at a clearly marked stop line, but if there is no such stop line, before entering the crosswalk on the near side of the intersection, or if there is no such crosswalk, then before entering the intersection, and shall remain standing until an indication to proceed is shown.
The most common traffic violation associated with intersections is running a red light or stop sign—when a driver continues through the intersection after not stopping at a stop sign or red light. Other common causes of intersection accidents include:
- Driver Error—Drivers may mistake a two-way stop as a four-way stop, or a no-way stop, and pass through the intersection while another car does the same.
- Inattention—Driver is being negligent or careless and drives through the stop sign without noticing it. This may be caused by texting, reaching for an item in the vehicle, lack of sleep and a variety of other reasons. Completely running a stop sign is very dangerous and often leads to serious crashes such as ‘T-Bone’ accidents with other vehicles that did have the right-of-way and were driving through the intersection.
- Mistaken Right-of-Way—This occurs when two drivers both believe that they have the right of way and both accelerate from their stop signs and crash into each other.
- Weather—Severe weather such as snow, heavy rain, sleet, sun and hail may obscure the driver’s vision and cause them to run a stop sign. Additionally, slick or icy surfaces may cause a driver to slide through a stop sign or stoplight and crash into another vehicle that has the right of way.
- Obstruction—If a stop sign is blocked or obstructed in any way by trees, bushes, graffiti or twisted by kids or a different accident, a driver may believe that they do not have a stop sign and continue through the intersection.
- Turning at an Intersection—A driver may believe it is their right of way and turn right or left in front of a car that is continuing through the intersection causing an
- U-Turns—U-turns (which are included in left hand turns) account for 22.2 percent of intersection crashes. Under 625 ILCS 5/11-802, a vehicle cannot make a U-turn within 500 feet of another vehicle.
A large amount of accidents occur at intersections because drivers need to be aware of many moving parts. Not only does a driver at an intersection have to watch for other vehicles coming from each of the converging roadways; they also have to watch for pedestrians, bicyclists and potential accidents caused by crossing roads, including left hand turns. If a driver that is turning left is distracted, performs an illegal maneuver, or misjudges oncoming traffic they may cause a serious accident or fatality.
Although intersections only comprise a small percentage of the roadways in the United States they account for almost 40 percent of the accidents. Of those accidents, over 22 percent were caused by turning left and crossing the intersection. There are many factors that may attribute to left hand turn accidents, however, 96 percent of the accidents were attributed to drivers, while the vehicle or environmental factors were less than three percent. Intersection related accidents are more than 335 times likely to be caused by turning with an obstructed view than non-intersection related accidents.
Other factors that may attribute to left turn accidents include:
- False assumption of other driver’s actions
- Inadequate surveillance
- Illegal maneuvering
- Internal or external distraction
- Misjudgment of gap or other driver’s speed
- Driving too fast for conditions or aggressive driving
- Critical non-performance error: this includes sleeping, heart attack, other physical impairment and being passed out as a result of alcohol or drug use.
Left turn accidents may be caused by many factors, it is important that if you have been involved in a Illinois left turn accident to contact experienced Chicago vehicle accident attorney like Lamber Goodnow and our partner firms. Our Chicago lawyers are knowledgeable in both Illinois state and local laws that pertain to left hand turn accidents and will fight to make sure that you receive the compensation that you deserve.
The Lamber Goodnow Injury Team and their partner firms understand that Illinois has the fifth busiest interstate system in the nation. With billions of cars going through our state, there are bound to be accidents. We are experienced in all aspects of Chicago auto injury claims and can negotiate the best settlement for your accident. If you or someone that you love has been injured in a left turn accident please contact the Lamber Goodnow injury law team and their Chicago co-counsel attorneys. We have experience in representing victims that have been struck by vehicles while riding their bicycles and walking, and promise to fight to get the financial reward that you deserve. It is important that you contact a Chicago personal injury attorney that is familiar with the state’s left turn laws. Please contact us for a no fee consultation today.
 US Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Crash Factors in Intersection-Related Crashes: An On-Scene Perspective (Sept. 2010), http://www.distraction.gov/downloads/pdfs/crash-factors-in-intersection-related-crashes.pdf.