Drivers get two main types of left turns at stoplights: permitted left turns and protected left turns.
Left Turns: Permitted vs Protected
A protected left turn means that the left turn lane is light controlled on its own. Drivers have to wait for that green arrow to make their turn. A permitted left turn means that drivers have to wait for opposing traffic, but they can turn left whenever the main light is green, as long as they find a safe gap in the oncoming cars.
The second option, while it can make it quicker for drivers to turn, can really put pedestrians at risk. One report claimed that people in crosswalks were essentially an afterthought to drivers trying to make a left turn, as they stared down the opposing traffic and focused solely on finding space to get through.
Who Has the Right-of-Way?
The danger is that drivers may never see pedestrians, who do have the legal right-of-way and are allowed to cross at the same time. Technically, drivers are supposed to wait for both walkers and opposing traffic before turning, but an eager driver trying to rush through a gap may simply never see people in the crosswalk until an accident happens.
The statistics back this up. Turning cars are almost always a hazard to pedestrians, but one study found that the number of deadly accidents happened far more often with left turns than right turns, by a ratio of 3 to 1. In fact, left turns were one of the leading causes of death for walkers in the road.
Have you lost a loved one or been seriously injured in a pedestrian crash at an intersection? You must know what rights you may have to financial compensation.
Source: Next City, “6 Intersection Designs That Actually Prioritize Pedestrians,” Rachel Dovey, accessed March 16, 2018