What Are the Leading Causes of Accidents at an Intersection?

In 2019, out of over 36,000 fatal auto accidents, more than 10,000 were intersection-related, as reported by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). Most people think that interstate highways are the most dangerous place to drive, but almost 30% of all fatal accidents occur at intersections. Why is this the case?

In this article, we’ll explore the main causes of these types of accidents, which include running a red light, being distracted, speeding, and more.

Types of Intersection Accidents

Not all intersection car accidents are alike. Here are the main types of accidents you might find at an intersection:

  • Rear-End Collisions: Rear-end collisions are one of the most frequent types of car crashes. Intersections are particularly susceptible to rear-end crashes because they require many vehicles to slow down or stop completely. When the vehicles closest to the intersection adjust their speed, following cars that are tailgating, speeding, or driving distracted are more likely to have a rear-end collision. 
  • Accidents at an Angle: Side-impact or T-bone accidents often occur at angles and are typically the result of right-of-way violations, especially at four-way intersections. This is a common occurrence due to the fact that intersections are confusing to a lot of people, especially for out-of-state visitors. 
  • Sideswipe Accidents: These accidents can involve vehicles traveling in the same direction or opposite directions. They often occur due to drivers not paying attention to the road or drifting out of their lanes. In intersections where lanes aren’t clearly marked, it’s easy for two vehicles to drift into the same neutral area between lanes, leading to accidents. 
  • Head-On Collisions: This type of accident can be the most dangerous because when the vehicles collide, they tend to experience a greater impact than vehicles that collide at other angles. These collisions can result from various errors, including disobeying traffic control devices, failing to stay in one’s lane, speeding, and driving while distracted or angry. 
  • Pedestrian Accidents: Unfortunately, pedestrians can also be victims of intersection accidents. Even though pedestrians typically have the right of way in crosswalks, negligent drivers can put them at risk. Such accidents often result in very severe consequences.

if you are the victim of any of these intersection-related accidents, you should consult a law firm like Morris & Dewett to guide you through the steps to take to receive the compensation and justice you deserve.

Common Causes of Intersection Accidents

Intersection accidents can be caused by numerous negligent or reckless types of driving, including: 

  • Running a Red Light or Stop Sign: According to FHWA statistics, someone runs a red light every 20 minutes in the United States. Running a red light often leads to collisions with injuries, as other drivers on the road do not have sufficient time to react.
  • Failure to Yield the Right-of-Way: All drivers are legally obligated to follow traffic rules, including yielding the right-of-way. However, if drivers are confused about who has the right-of-way or if aggressive drivers try to jump the line, it can lead to accidents. 
  • Attempting to Run a Yellow Light: In a rush to beat a yellow light, many drivers accelerate towards an intersection. However, the yellow light is a warning that you should stop, not speed up. 
  • Distracted Driving: You should pay special attention at intersections due to the number of drivers that can be involved. When a driver is not focused on the traffic signal ahead and is instead preoccupied with something in their car, it can directly cause an intersection collision.
  • Speeding: Speeding reduces reaction time and increases the severity of collisions. So, take precautions and drive slowly at intersections.
  • Sudden Stopping: As we mentioned before, rear-end collisions are among the most frequently reported intersection accidents. These accidents happen when a driver decelerates too fast and the other driver behind doesn’t have time to stop. In these cases, the driver who initiates the rear-end collision is usually at fault.

Legal Implications of Intersection Accidents

The majority of intersection accidents stem from negligence, where drivers fail to exercise due care, thereby endangering themselves and others on the road. If you’re the victim of an accident caused by such negligence, you may be entitled to various forms of compensation, including:

  • Medical Expenses: Negligent drivers may be required to cover your medical bills, including hospital stays, surgeries, prescription medications, and ongoing rehabilitation.
  • Property Damage: Compensation may also include the cost of repairing or replacing damaged vehicles and personal property.
  • Lost Wages: If you’re unable to work due to injuries sustained in the accident, you can seek compensation for lost income during your recovery.
  • Pain and Suffering: You may also be eligible for compensation for the physical pain, emotional suffering, and diminished quality of life that resulted from the accident.
  • Wrongful Death: In tragic cases where negligence leads to a fatality, your surviving family members may pursue a wrongful death claim against the negligent party.

What to Do After an Intersection Accident

For most traffic accidents, the steps you need to take are very similar. If you’re the victim of an intersection accident, make sure you: 

  • Seek Medical Attention: The first thing to do is get medical attention. Even if injuries seem minor initially, some injuries may not manifest immediately or could worsen over time. So, make sure you call the police and an ambulance to check on you and others involved.
  • Contact Your Insurance: To get started your your claim process, contact your insurance company right away.
  • Gather Evidence: Once you are out of immediate danger, gather evidence of what happened. Take photos, collect witness contact information, and record the contact and insurance information of any other parties involved. 
  • Consult With an Attorney: Once you have submitted your claim with the insurance company, there is no guarantee that you will receive the compensation you deserve. So you should call a lawyer to guide you through the process.
  • Negotiate or Litigate: Your attorney will work to negotiate a fair settlement with the at-fault party’s insurance company. If a settlement cannot be reached, they will initiate litigation to pursue compensation through a lawsuit.

Have the Right Plan

Intersections are more dangerous than a lot of people realize. Consider the main causes of intersection accidents demonstrated in this article and make sure you take precautions to avoid them. And, if you find yourself involved in an intersection accident caused by another driver’s negligence, hiring a specialized lawyer to help you receive the compensation you deserve is a prudent decision. Contact Morris & Dewett now for a consultation about your intersection accident.


Federal Highway Administration. About Intersection Safety.
Federal Highway Administration. If You Run a Red Light You Are Betting More Than You Can Afford to Lose.

Morris & Dewett provides this information to the public for general education and interest. The firm does not represent clients in every topic discussed in answers to frequent questions. The information is curated and produced based on questions commonly asked or search terms commonly used. Every effort is made to provide accurate information. Do not make any decision solely based on the information provided, please seek relevant counsel for each topic area. Consult an attorney before making any legal decision, consult a doctor before making any medical decision, and consult a financial advisor before making any fiscal decision. Information provided is not legal advice. If you have any legal needs, please do not hesitate to contact us. We are pleased to assist you.

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