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Intersections are a major source of collision risk on the road

When you get behind the wheel of your vehicle, you expect to reach your destination safely. Illinois has a well-developed transportation system, including freeways, toll roads and surface streets that can help you reach your destination. You may even choose to use surface streets instead of highways to avoid tolls in certain areas. What you don’t realize, however, is that traveling through all those additional intersections could increase your risk of a crash.

While collisions at high speeds can certainly create serious injuries and dramatic property damage, the average driver also incurs substantial risk of injury when driving more slowly near intersections. Understanding this risk factor and how to mitigate it can help you decrease your statistical risk of a collision.

Two-fifths of crashes happen at intersections

According to an analysis of crash data by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), approximately 40 percent of crashes in 2008 were, in some way, related to intersections. Despite often involving lower speeds than the open highway, roads with intersections pose a serious risk to everyone who travels in a motor vehicle, bikes, rides a motorcycle or walks on public roads.

It only takes a minor mistake to result in a collision at an intersection. These areas are often traffic bottlenecks, which leave drivers frustrated and eager to move past. That frustration can lead to quick actions and oversights, which can have tragic results.

Pay close attention any time you approach an intersection

When looking at the subgroup of crashes involving intersections, the NHTSA found that roughly 96 percent of them had causes rooted in driver error. The single biggest contributing factor to intersection crashes was inadequate surveillance by drivers. When looking at intersection crashes caused by drivers, inadequate surveillance is responsible for 44.1 percent of crashes, or nearly half. In other words, failing to carefully check your surroundings when approaching and moving through an intersection is the biggest risk factor for a collision.

The next most serious concern is misjudging the upcoming actions by another driver. Failing to use a turn signal or braking suddenly could contribute to other drivers misunderstanding your intentions as you approach an intersection. You should always use your turn signals to alert other drivers to your upcoming turn. You should also drive more carefully, with an eye on all traffic approaching the intersection as you move through it.

Turns with obstructed views, such as other vehicles or even landscaping or buildings, is another risk factor. Illegal driving maneuvers can also contribute to collision risk. Keep your eyes and your mind focused on the road, use your turn signals and pay close attention to other vehicles. All together, these actions can reduce your risk of causing a crash at an intersection.