What Makes a Dangerous Intersection

very dangerous intersection sign
Look out for these 13 danger signs

The Dangerous Intersection warning sign (W42-1). Size is 24" diamond shape, engineer grade prismatic or high-intensity reflective signs. Be alert, you're approaching a dangerous intersection.

There are certain factors that can increase the likelihood of an intersection being dangerous. If you're aware of these things and pay attention to what's going on around you, you'll be a safer driver.

1)  The crosswalk is faded and difficult to see.

Faded and difficult-to-see crosswalks are hard for pedestrians to navigate and can lead to accidents. The driver may not see the pedestrian, who is expecting a car to stop. This can cause an accident or injury.

To make crosswalks safer and easier to see, you can add crossing guards, paint the crosswalk with bold lines or provide a traffic signal for pedestrians to use. These measures improve visibility for all parties using the intersection, which makes it safer and more efficient.

The presence of pedestrians or bicyclists crossing the street is another danger sign—especially if there isn't a crosswalk nearby.

2)  There are not enough lanes to handle the amount of traffic.

The width of a lane can also make an intersection more dangerous. If the lanes are too wide, drivers will tend to speed up when they're making turns.

Additionally, if drivers have to merge into another lane at an intersection (such as with a left-turn-only lane), they may have trouble figuring out where they fit. This can cause them to hesitate and then make a sudden move that throws other traffic off balance. Alternatively, if there are too many lanes at an intersection, some drivers may end up in the wrong one and not realize it until it's too late.

3)  The lane markings are confusing.

If a driver is confused about where to turn because of unclear lane markings, he or she may veer into oncoming traffic, making an accident more likely. Your lane markings should be clear and visible at all times. To ensure they stay clear and visible, you should regularly seek out debris that might obscure them and remove it as quickly as possible. You should also make sure your paint is refreshed on a regular basis in order to keep the lines bright and legible at night.

4) It's not easy to see around parked cars that block the view of oncoming traffic.

Drivers have to frequently look around parked cars when exiting driveways or trying to merge back into traffic, as well as for pedestrians walking between cars. It's also difficult to see oncoming traffic when turning left if there are parked cars on the other side of the road.

5) There is a bus stop at the intersection, making it hard for buses to safely merge into traffic

Have you ever noticed that a bus stop is a dangerous place? As the bus slows to a stop, cars around it must be aware of their surroundings. Without fail, there will be at least one motorist who immediately takes advantage of the bus's temporary obstruction to zip through and beat the traffic light. This happens at every intersection with a bus stop nearby, multiple times per day. As someone who rides buses for work, I've had to become hyper-aware of my surroundings. Drivers and passengers must be on alert for when cars speed up to pull around the bus in order to catch the light before it turns red. Buses are especially vulnerable when they try to merge safely into traffic while exiting a busy intersection. Because they navigate public city roads and shoulder narrow lanes with heavy passenger loads, buses often have trouble merging back into traffic when they pull out from under overpasses or exit driveways near intersections where people are trying to turn right.

6) Pedestrians cross a busy road frequently and there are few or no crosswalks or pedestrian lights.

Crossing a busy road frequently, and with few or no crosswalks or pedestrian lights.

People need to cross roads to get to bus stops and train stations; people sometimes walk on the street instead of the sidewalk; and people might want to cross at a stop sign or signal light where there is no crosswalk. In these cases, no laws are being broken, but the risk of an accident is high. This situation can be especially dangerous in dark conditions when you may be less visible. The solution is simple: build more crosswalks.

7) The roadway approaches a railroad crossing with poor sight distance to see if a train is coming.

A railroad crossing with poor sight distance is incredibly dangerous. You may approach the railroad grade crossing and see that there are no lights flashing or gates descending, so you proceed through the intersection. But all of a sudden, a train comes barreling toward you from either direction at considerable speed. Trains can be difficult to see at a distance and they're much bigger than they look, so it's easy to not realize how big of a threat they are until it's too late. On top of this, trains cannot stop quickly; if an engineer sees you in the tracks when he's already going at full speed, it will take him more than two miles to stop completely.

For these reasons, as well as for safety reasons around private vehicles and trains passing in opposite directions at once on one track (which isn't always avoidable), Railroad Grade Crossing engineers recommend that motorists stay away from intersections if there is any chance of a train coming through them within the next twenty minutes.

8) Blind intersections are curves or hills that prevent drivers from seeing each other until the last minute.

When it comes to blind curves or hills, you and the other driver are often unable to see each other until the last minute. You should slow down before entering a blind curve or descending a hill. If another vehicle is approaching, you may need to stop quickly. When going up a hill, never accelerate; if you're going too fast while going up the hill, your vehicle may slide backward into the path of an oncoming car.

9) Drivers must yield the right-of-way instead of stopping at a stop sign or signal light.

You should yield to traffic on the main road any time you see a yield sign. If you fail to do so, it could result in serious consequences. According to the Federal Highway Administration, drivers must yield the right-of-way instead of stopping at a stop sign or signal light. Drivers must also be cautious when driving through an intersection with a yield sign: they cannot cross over if there is another vehicle or pedestrian crossing their path.

However, not every driver follows this rule. In 2014, there were more than 2,000 intersection accidents in Arizona - most of which involved a driver running a red light or stop sign. This resulted in nearly 200 deaths and over 15,000 injuries across the state that year alone. And while these are only statistics from one state (albeit one with many dangerous intersections), they’re still indicative of a much larger problem nationwide: people aren’t yielding when it comes to their safety on the road."

10) A divided highway crosses another street without an overpass, underpass or signal light.

A limited-access highway is a divided highway that's designed for high-speed traffic. It typically has two to four lanes and lacks intersections. It also has entrance and exit ramps that require drivers to change speeds. Vehicles can't drive from one side of the road to the other, so vehicles traveling at high speeds in opposite directions won't collide with each other.

Limited access highways often don't have stop signs or signal lights because drivers aren't able to cross through traffic or turn onto the road from side streets. However, some limited access highways do have stoplights where they intersect with major roads that are not divided highways, such as U.S. Highways and state routes (e.g., State Route 522 in Seattle).

Because they're typically located outside of urban areas, they're a common location for head-on collisions if cars fail to follow driving rules—for example, when a driver is traveling the wrong way or driving on an exit ramp instead of the main road.

11) Obstructed views

Intersections with traffic lights or stop signs that are obstructed by trees, buildings, or other structures. These visual cues aren't as effective if they're out of sight.

12) Odd angles at intersections. 

Another thing to keep an eye out for is streets leading into the intersection at odd angles. This makes it harder for drivers to anticipate how traffic will flow through this part of the road.

13) Intersections near driveways or sideroads

Be careful when approaching intersections with busy driveways or side roads nearby, especially if they enter into a main road's lane(s). This type of situation can lead to hard-to-predict traffic patterns and more frequent accidents from misjudging the flow of vehicles in an area like this.

Related article:

Top Reasons That Cause a Dangerous Intersection