A new report from the New York City Department of Transportation finds that vehicles making left turns caused about 19 percent of all pedestrian and cyclist deaths or serious injuries in the city last year. That is over three times the rate of pedestrians and bicyclists killed or severely injured by a right-turning vehicle (6 percent). According to the report, entitled “Don’t Cut Corners,” between 2010 and 2014, 108 pedestrians and bicyclists were killed by left turning vehicles (out of 859 pedestrian and bicyclist fatalities 2010-2014). The study is part of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Vision Zero initiative to end traffic deaths and injuries on city streets.


“There’s a lot more going on in terms of your cognitive challenges when you’re making left turns,” said DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg at a news conference announcing the report. According to the study, left turns are more dangerous for three main reasons: they can be taken at a wider radius, leading to greater speeds and greater pedestrian exposure; the driver’s visibility is partially obscured by parked cars and the vehicle’s A-pillar blind spot, where the frame meets the windshield and the driver’s side door; and left turns require more mental and physical effort than right turns.

Related: New Skeleton Traffic Signs Aim to Frighten New Yorkers into Slowing Down

Based on the report’s findings, the agency announced a series of safety measures to intersections in order to reduce the chances of left turn collisions. They include allowing pedestrians a lead time of seven seconds in the crosswalk before the traffic light changes, called Leading Pedestrian Intervals (LPIs). Last year DOT installed 400 LPIs and this year they plan to install at least 500 citywide. DOT is also moving forward with a pilot initiative to install left turn traffic calming infrastructure at 100 intersections, including the marking of a guiding radius, permanent plastic delineators and permanent rubber curbs with delineators on the double yellow centerline. The action plan also includes protected bike lanes, left turn restrictions, left turn signals and a public information campaign.

Last year, two city councilmembers, Brad Lander, deputy leader of policy for the council, and Ydanis Rodriguez, who chairs the council’s transportation committee, wrote a letter to Google asking the tech company to discourage left turns in its Google Maps app. The councilmembers requested that Google add an option in the navigation app to reduce left turns when providing users driving directions within the city.

+ Don’t Cut Corners report

+ NYC Vision Zero

Via Next City

Images via Wikimedia