Safe driving at intersections — the turning vehicle

A turning vehicle at an intersection creates a very special problem to other drivers entering and passing through the area. Vision may be limited by buildings, foliage, or other vehicles. The turning vehicle may be stopped and then decide to turn and cut you off. Or, you may be faced with a lawbreaker that runs a light, stop sign, or yield sign. All of these potential hazards for the turning driver require defensive driving by YOU to prevent an accident.

The three major contributing factors to intersection accidents are: delayed perception, speed too fast for conditions, and false assumptions. Let's examine these factors and consider the most glaring hazard at an intersection — meeting the turning vehicle.

Delayed perception

Delayed perception occurs when you are distracted, confused, or diverted by other competing hazards while the ultimate hazard is rapidly developing (e.g., watching pedestrians, looking for street signs, etc.).


Drivers who fail to slow down for intersections risk a serious accident. They are traveling so fast, by the time they perceive the hazard, they have already passed the point of escape.

False assumptions

A large number of drivers who become involved in intersection accidents do so because they wrongfully assume the other driver will act in a certain way (e.g., a flashing turn signal is an indication that the vehicle will make a turn — if it doesn't, will you be able to stop?).

Avoiding intersection accidents

Here are some suggestions to help you avoid crashes at intersections.

  1. Match speed with visibility at intersections. Always be able to stop your vehicle short of the intersection.
  2. Don't assume anything. Just because you have the right of way, or think you do, doesn't mean the other driver will yield it to you. It is best to approach all intersections prepared to yield the right of way, even if it legally belongs to you. Take your foot off the gas and lightly cover the brake.
  3. Decide what evasive action you will take should there be a conflict. Have your vehicle under complete control so you can make any necessary maneuvers.
  4. Resist distractions. Keep your eyes moving to the sides and to the rear as you approach and pass through intersections. Look in all directions, then look again.
  5. Don't assume that the other vehicle will stop. A traffic light, stop sign, or yield sign doesn't physically stop a vehicle—the driver has to apply the brakes.

Final thoughts

Don't stake your life on the right of way. The stakes are too high and the odds are against you. Think preventability and drive defensively.

This material is provided for informational purposes only and does not provide any coverage or guarantee loss prevention. The examples in this material are provided as hypothetical and for illustration purposes only. The Hanover Insurance Company and its affiliates and subsidiaries (“The Hanover”) specifically disclaim any warranty or representation that acceptance of any recommendations contained herein will make any premises, or operation safe or in compliance with any law or regulation. By providing this information to you, The Hanover does not assume (and specifically disclaims) any duty, undertaking or responsibility to you. The decision to accept or implement any recommendation(s) or advice contained in this material must be made by you.

LC FEB 2019 11-389
171-1131 (10/14)