What Are the Human Factors That Make Intersections so Dangerous?

What Are the Human

Colorado experienced a 40% increase in the volume of fatal accidents between 2013 and 2016. The Colorado Department of Transportation Safety explained the three primary factors that contribute to vehicle collisions are the road, the operator, and the car itself. The Federal Highway Administration indicates that 44% of crashes occur at intersections. The majority of vehicle crashes are caused by human error. Here, we will discuss the various human factors that have the largest effect on potential intersection accident involvement.

Categories of Human Factors

Intersections present greater complexity than most settings that drivers come upon. Studies have examined vehicle operator behavior at intersections and the effects that human factors have. A Journal of Advanced Transportation report differentiated behavioral factors into two categories. The first are those that reduce the driver’s ability to perform, like impairment or a lack of driving experience. The other relates to risk-taking behavior, like individuals who habitually ignore the “rules of the road”.

Intersection Tasks

Drivers approaching intersections are challenged to perform three subcategories of tasks:

  1. Controlling: Physically operating the car.
  2. Guiding: Interactions with other motorists, like merging and complying with traffic control signs or signals.
  3. Navigating: Drivers choice how they reach their destination.

Intersections may require vehicle operators to keep their lane positioning, interpret and respond to signage and traffic signals, avoid other motorists, and control their speed. When drivers are subjected to excessive amounts of information, they may naturally compensate by ignoring their navigational responsibilities in order to address more critical situations.

Human Factor: Age—Younger, Inexperienced Drivers

Data from Driver Smart Colorado showed that roughly 20% of 16-year-old drivers experience a crash. Accidents are the most common cause of death among 15 to 20-year-olds. Teenagers face increased risk for crashes due to their lack of operational experience and because they are more inclined to take risks.

Human Factor: Age—Older Drivers

Elderly vehicle operators tend to be involved in angled collisions and those involving left-hand turns. They experience more collisions when encountering right-angles such as most intersections present. The elderly often struggle to differentiate vehicles from other objects, misjudge the speed of other vehicles, and have inadequate abilities to accelerate the vehicle they are driving. Those over the age of 85 are approximately 10 times more likely than those age 40 to 49 to experience intersection accidents that involve multiple vehicles.

Human Factor: Gender

Young male drivers ages 15 to 34 are involved in significantly more accidents than any other segment and are much more likely to travel at excessive speeds. Approximately 62% of fatal accidents involve males. Female drivers are more likely to make functional driving errors.

Human Factor: Vision

Some drivers with adequate vision still struggle to see after dark due to poor sensitivity in differentiating light and dark. A lack of visual acuity poses problems for drivers attempting to read signs and other smaller sized indicators. Many drivers have poor peripheral vision and may have difficulty based on the placement of signs or signals, and trouble recognizing bicycles or pedestrians to their sides. Depth perception is critical in heavy traffic and determining the distance of an approaching vehicle when turning.

Human Factor: Distractions

Traffic safety is negatively impacted by distractions across all age groups. Common examples of distractions include talking on the phone, text messaging, tending to pets or children, eating, and others. In 2016, 67 fatalities were attributed to driver distraction, a number that is rising and is likely underreported.

Human Factor: Impairment

Fatal crashes in Colorado where alcohol was a factor rose by 17% from 2013 to 2015, from 129 to 151. Nationally, about 61% of fatal accidents had alcohol involvement. In 2013, marijuana was detected in approximately 10% of fatal accidents and rose to 20% by 2016.

It is evident that the vast majority of accidents stem from human error. Often these errors are examples of negligence or carelessness that lead to devastating injuries. For these victims, it is critical to consult with an experienced Denver car accident lawyer to protect your best interests.

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