Close Menu X

How Can We Help?

Study confirms right-turning drivers don’t check for bicyclists

Intersections are dangerous for pedestrians and bicycle riders. Bicyclists are especially at risk when cars make right turns.

A recent study by the University of Toronto used eye-tracking technology to show that right turn drivers routinely fail to scan the area where cyclists and pedestrians would be. Namely, an over-the-shoulder check could prevent many car-bike accidents.

'Right hook’ collisions are among the most common bike accidents

Like New York City, Toronto has miles of designated bike lanes. And like New York, those bike lanes are only as safe as the motorists who share the road. The UT study specifically examined the problem of right-turn collisions at intersections, one of the most common causes of bike accidents with injuries. There are three common scenarios in which the victim on the bike has the right-of-way:

  • The driver turns right and strikes a cyclist who is continuing straight.
  • The driver overtakes a cyclist and cuts them off when turning right, causing the bike to crash into the passenger side of the car.
  • The driver is turning right from a side street and pulls out into the path of a cyclist in the roadway or bike lane.

These “right hook” collisions frequently result in serious injury or death. In the first scenario, the bike rider may be run over or clipped and thrown to the pavement. In the second scenario, the rider smashes into the frame of the vehicle or is thrown over the hood of the car. In the third type, the rider hits the driver side of the vehicle or is struck broadside.

Drivers aren’t seeing bikes, and often aren’t even looking for them

The UT study outfitted 19 drivers with headgear that accurately tracked their eye movements as they navigated downtown Toronto. The test subjects were instructed to make right turns at specific intersections so their behaviors could be compared.

The study found that 11 of the 19 drivers did not visually scan the zone on their right where a cyclist or pedestrian would be expected. A few drivers checked their mirrors, but none made an over-the-shoulder check before turning.

Ironically, the drivers who were most familiar with the streets in the study were least likely to make a head check for cyclists. Drivers who were less familiar with those intersections were more cautious when turning. Complacency is a killer.

Education is part of the solution

Researchers noted that drivers’ views were sometimes obstructed by parked cars. In general, drivers’ attention is greatly divided at intersections. Any additional distractions -- such as a smartphone, loud music or engaging with passengers -- greatly increase the risk of hitting a bicyclist or pedestrian.

Other studies have shown that drivers are not always familiar with the rules of the road pertaining to bike lanes or yielding the right-of-way when turning. Simply educating drivers to make a visual shoulder check when turning right, and to slow down or pause a beat when making a right hook, could go a long way to preventing bike tragedies.

Cyclists have to assume that drivers do not see them, unless they have made eye contact with a driver who is stopped, slowing or signaling a turn. As the saying goes, the graveyard is filled with people who had the right-of-way.


No Comments

Leave a comment
Comment Information

Our Awards and Accolades

    • The Best Lawyers in America
    • The National Trail Lawyers | Top 100 | Trail Lawyers
    • Newsweek Leaders In Showcase Personal Injury | 2011
    • Lawyers of Distinction | 2018
    • 2014 | Litigator Awards | Ranked Top 1% of Lawyers
    • Nation's Premier | NAOPIA | Top Ten Attorney | Personal Injury
    • American Law Society | Official Home of America's Top Lawyers
    • Best Lawyers | Best Law Firms | U.S.News & News Report | Rankings
    • New York Law Journal | 2015 Verdicts & Settlements | Hall of Fame | Motor Vehicle | Sakkas, Cahn & Weiss, LLP | Top 20 Verdict
    • Million Dollar Advocates Forum
    • Verdict Search's | Top NY Verdicts
    • Certified
    • National Association of Distinguished Counsel | Nation's Top One Percent | NADC
    • 2016 | Litigation Elite - Top 100 Trail Lawyers
    • Martindale-Hubbell | Distinguished | Peer Rated for High Professional Achievement | 2017
    • Who's who Legal | WWL
    • The National Advocates | Top 100 Lawyers
    • America's Top 100 Attorneys | Top 100
    • The National Trial Lawyers | Top 100 Trail Lawyers
    • Best Lawyers | 2021
    • Super Lawyers
    • Best Law Firms of America | LifeTime Member
    • Avvo | 10.0 | Superb | Top Attorney Personal Injury
Email Our Attorneys

Have Questions? Get A Free Case Review

Bold labels are required.

Contact Information

The use of the Internet or this form for communication with the firm or any individual member of the firm does not establish an attorney-client relationship. Confidential or time-sensitive information should not be sent through this form.


Privacy Policy