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Traffic Operations

Approach Turn Crashes#

Approach turn crashes (sometimes called left turn crashes) involve vehicles traveling in opposite directions on the same street with one vehicle attempting to turn left in front of the oncoming vehicle.

71% of approach turn crashes occur at signalized intersections. Confusion at the end of the green interval (when the signal light turns yellow) is a major contributing factor in approach turn crashes.

Diagram of vehicle hitting another while turning left

Tips for Motorists#

  • If you are waiting to turn left at a traffic signal and the light turns yellow you must make sure that oncoming traffic is stopping before completing your left turn. Oncoming traffic can legally enter the intersection on the yellow and some oncoming drivers may even enter the intersection illegally on red. If you are waiting to turn left and have pulled forward into the intersection while the light was green you can legally wait as long as necessary when the light turns yellow and then red to ensure oncoming traffic is stopping before you finish your turn.
  • If you are approaching a signalized intersection intending to continue through and there is someone waiting to turn left on the opposite approach, err on the side of caution if the light turns yellow. Don't trust that they will wait for you to clear the intersection. Do NOT enter an intersection on a red light even seconds after the light turns red. Some motorists think that it may be okay to push the yellow light since cross street traffic needs time to start up. However, there is a significant risk of an approach turn crash if a left turner in the opposite direction feels pressured to turn because their light has also turned red.