Eliminating some left-hand turns could save lives, BYU study says

A BYU study says eliminating some mid-block left turns could save lives on Utah roads. (Photo: KUTV)

(KUTV) — Could the difference in stopping people from making left-hand turns in some areas on Utah roads save lives?

Some BYU professors think so.

They said the idea they are suggesting is pretty simple.

Grant Schultz and Mitsuru Saito are both Civil and Environmental Engineering professors at Brigham Young University who studied left-hand turns — and the dangers that come with them.

Schultz said the research shows cutting down on left turns on busy roads and adding more medians where people can turn left into homes and businesses could potentially result in fewer fatal accidents.

“Those left-turn crashes become our more severe crashes, so we do see fatalities,” Schultz said.

According to the Utah Department of Transportation, more than 1,800 left-turn crashes a year occur in our urban areas, excluding those that occur in intersections.

Schultz said he and his colleagues hope their research will persuade legislators and UDOT to plan roads in ways that would eliminate non-intersection left turns, or "mid-block left turns."

Having to drive down the road and make a U-turn, instead of just turning left may seem like an in convenience. But Schultz said the time difference is proven to be "negligible."

“Don’t you think it’s worth a few extra minutes if you can save a life?” Schultz said.

The study was funded by UDOT.

“It really confirmed some of the thoughts that we had for a long time about raised medians and cutting down on left turns,” said John Gleason, UDOT's public information officer.

Schultz said the medians are pretty cost-effective, and you can’t put a dollar value on something when it saves lives.

“We just want to eliminate fatal crashes, and we want to reduce severe crashes and that in and of itself is worth a lot," he said.

The study was published in Journal of the Transportation Research Board. Click here to read it.

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