A T-bone accident in Orlando left a family shattered after a 49-year-old woman and her 23-year-old daughter died at the intersection of South Texas Avenue and Rose Boulevard while on the way to the mall where they both worked. The son of one of the victims, who was also the brother of the other victim, stated that he heard about the accident when a friend recognized his mother’s new vehicle in the wreckage. At the time of the report, investigators believed that the 19-year-old driver of the car that hit the woman’s vehicle was speeding at the time of the crash, and police were contemplating filing criminal charges against him. The son expressed disbelief at the accident, stating: “One second they were here, the next second they were gone.”
It’s unfortunate—not only in Florida but all across the United States—that T-bone accidents injure and kill people. This type of accident, also known as a broadside or side-angle crash, happens when the front of one vehicle strikes the side of another. It almost always occurs in intersections and poses particular risks to passengers sitting on the side of the vehicle that is struck due to the lack of protective features in the sides and doors of vehicles.
Injuries from this type of accident also tend to be more severe if there is a major size and weight difference between the vehicles involved. For example, if a small passenger car is broadsided by a tractor-trailer, the damage is likely to be more significant than if a small passenger car is broadsided by another small passenger car. If you have been injured in a T-bone accident, you should determine your eligibility to seek compensation. An experienced car accident attorney can help you understand the process.
Who Is at Fault in a T-Bone Car Accident?
In just one year, Florida experienced 559 fatal accidents caused by failure to yield the right-of-way, which resulted in 3,271 accidents that featured incapacitating injuries and 10,835 accidents with non-incapacitating injuries. Failure to yield the right-of-way is a term used to describe a traffic infraction in which a driver is supposed to stop for a traffic light or stop sign to allow vehicles traveling on the intersecting road to have the right-of-way, but does not stop. As most T-bone collisions occur in the intersection, the at-fault party in this type of crash is almost always the driver who did not stop for the traffic control device and, therefore, failed to yield the right-of-way.
Here is a look at some of the common failure to yield violations that can lead to intersection accidents:
- Green lights versus green arrows: Making a left turn through oncoming traffic when there is a green light but not a green arrow. Unless there is a green arrow, the left-turning driver must yield the right-of-way to traffic in the oncoming travel lanes that also has a green light.
- Four-way stops: Many drivers fail to understand the right-of-way laws that involve four-way stops. At this type of stop, the first driver to reach the stop sign has the right-of-way. When two vehicles approach the intersection at the same time, the driver on the left must yield the right-of-way to the driver on the right.
- Three-way intersections: At this type of intersection, the driver on the roadway that is ending must yield the right-of-way to drivers on the through road, regardless of who arrives at the intersection first.
- Yellow arrows: A driver who is making a turn at an arrow that is flashing yellow must yield the right-of-way to oncoming traffic and can only complete the turn if the travel lanes that he or she must turn through are clear.
- Flashing red traffic lights or traffic lights that are out: Drivers should treat intersections where the traffic lights are all flashing red or that are not illuminated at all like four-way stops.
Common Behaviors Leading to Intersection Accidents
In July 2019, texting while driving became a primary offense in Florida, which means that, if a police officer has reason to suspect that a person is texting while driving, he or she can pull that driver over based on that suspicion even if the driver has not committed other traffic infractions.
According to a central Florida emergency room doctor who was interviewed shortly after the change in the law was implemented, the results of texting and driving accidents are becoming the most common type of impaired-driving accidents that he sees, treating everything from minor injuries caused by someone not paying attention to major T-bone crashes with multiple casualties and fatalities.
Texting and driving accidents are even more common in this particular emergency room than drunk driving accidents, the doctor noted. In 2017, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported that 3,166 people died on the nation’s roadways due to distracted driving behaviors, such as texting and driving.
Distracted driving is one of the most common behaviors that lead to intersection accidents. Here is a look at some of the others:
- Speeding: Speeding makes it difficult for a driver to stop safely, as it both reduces the time needed to perceive and react to a hazard—such as another vehicle entering the intersection—as well as increasing the distance that the vehicle needs to come to a safe and complete stop. The larger the vehicle, the more distance is needed. Another danger pertaining to speeding through intersections is the inability of another driver to properly calculate your speed and judge whether it is safe to enter the intersection. Misjudging speed or the gap in traffic needed to enter the roadway is a major cause of intersection accidents.
- Inadequate surveillance: Drivers are taught to look both directions before entering an intersection that is not light-controlled. However, some drivers fail to do this, and the consequences may involve a T-bone accident.
- Aggressive driving: Red light running is more than failing to yield the right-of-way. It is often a symptom of aggressive driving, which is careless or reckless driving behavior usually exhibited in congested traffic areas. Aggressive driving is a major cause of traffic accidents, accounting for over 50 percent of traffic fatalities, according to information provided by the Insurance Information Institute. In addition to red-light running, other aggressive driving behaviors include speeding, improper or erratic lane changes, passing where prohibited, and making improper turns.
- Alcohol-impaired driving: Alcohol-impaired driving causes the deaths of about 30 people per day in the United States—roughly one every 48 minutes at a societal cost of about $44 billion per year, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports. Alcohol impairment affects one’s ability to drive safely, disrupting the ability to control speed, skills needed to make good decisions, and the ability to scan the roadway for potential hazards or brake appropriately. All of these impacts are particularly dangerous when impaired drivers are traveling through intersections where they may be expected to yield right-of-way or to come to a quick stop.
- Low visibility: Driving in heavy rain, fog, or even at nighttime can reduce a driver’s visibility, making it hard for him or her to see whether the intersection is clear and reducing the amount of time needed for a driver to see and react to hazards in the roadway.
- Fatigued driving: Much like alcohol impairment, drowsiness severely impacts a driver’s ability to operate a motor vehicle safely, and it may cause him or her to miss the changing of a light, fail to stop at a light or stop sign, or fail to adequately survey the intersection before entering it.
- Other distractions: While texting and driving is a particularly dangerous distraction—as it causes the driver to take his or her hands from the wheel, eyes from the road, and mind from concentrating on driving—other driving distractions can also lead to T-bone accidents. Those distractions include other passengers in the vehicle, adjusting vehicle or stereo controls, eating or drinking, other cell phone use—such as talking on the phone or browsing the internet while driving, and external distractions—such as billboards, people in other cars, or the sites of previous accidents.
Can You Prevent This Type of Accident?
While not every intersection accident is preventable, there are several things that you can do to reduce your risk of becoming involved in a T-bone accident:
- Come to a complete stop at stop signs. Be sure to scan the roadway completely to ensure the intersection is clear before entering it.
- Remember that yellow lights do not mean speed up and get through the intersection. They’re provided as a warning to begin slowing to come to a complete stop when the light turns red.
- If turning left on a green light instead of a green arrow, make sure you have enough of a gap in traffic to safely complete your turn. When in doubt, wait until such gap exists, or until you’re provided the green arrow indicating that you have the right-of-way. Don’t enter an intersection and wait for the light to turn red to complete your turn.
- Always scan the roadway for potential hazards before entering an intersection, being mindful that not everyone you share the roadway with is going to obey traffic lights or laws. Take caution traveling through the intersection; do so at a safe speed that allows you the ability to stop for hazards if needed.
- If something is obstructing your view of cross traffic in the intersection, wait for the obstruction to clear before entering the intersection.
- Remember that it takes approximately five seconds to read or reply to a text. During this time, you may travel up to the length of a football field while having your eyes on that message, your hands on your phone, and your mind on a response. It is more than enough time to travel through a red light and into a busy intersection. Avoid texting and other distractions while driving.
- Do not drive if alcohol-impaired or drowsy.
- Slow down in low visibility situations, and use extra precautions to allow yourself plenty of time to stop for hazards.
- Allow yourself plenty of time to reach your destination. It is better to be twenty minutes late than injured or killed in a T-bone collision caused because you were speeding or driving aggressively in an attempt to get to your destination sooner.
- If you come to a four-way stop or an intersection where the lights aren’t working properly, follow four-way stop rules. If it is unclear as to who has the right-of-way, establish eye contact with the other drivers at the intersection. This typically results in one driver waving another through the intersection, or at the very least, gives you a clearer picture of the other driver’s intentions.
In Florida, the subject of red light cameras and their effectiveness in preventing accidents is a frequent cause of debate among lawmakers and the public. The cameras are designed to detect and photograph vehicles that run red lights, speed through intersections, or both. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, studies have revealed an overall reduction in the rate of crashes at intersections of 21 percent when red light cameras are used. T-bone collisions, in particular, were reduced up to 32 percent in communities using red-light cameras, with injury-causing T-bone accidents being reduced by up to 68 percent.
While some communities report an increase in rear-end accidents at intersections after the installation of red-light cameras, the institute noted that rear-end collisions are often less severe than broadside crashes. Commonly cited reasons for why some communities discontinue their red light camera programs include a decrease in citations, an inability to make the program financially viable, and community opposition.
If you were injured in a T-bone accident, a car accident lawyer can help you understand your legal options.