Assessing the safety criticality of driver behavior toward cyclists at intersections

Objective: Detailed analyses of car-to-cyclist accidents show that drivers intending to turn right at T-junctions collide more often with cyclists crossing from the right side on the bicycle lane than drivers intending to turn left. This fact has led to numerous studies examining the behavior of drivers turning left and right. However, the most essential question still has not been sufficiently answered: is the behavior of drivers intending to turn right generally more safety critical than the behavior of those intending to turn left? The purpose of this article is to provide a method that allows to determine whether a driver’s behavior toward cyclists can retrospectively be assessed as critical or non-critical.

Methods: Several theoretical considerations enriched by findings of experimental studies were employed to devise a multi-measure method. This method was applied to a dataset containing real-world approaching behavior of 48 drivers turning right and left at four T-junctions with different sight obstructions. For each driver a behavior-specific criticality was defined based on both, their driving and gaze behavior. Moreover, based on the behavior-specific criticality of each driver, the required field of view to see a cyclist from the right was defined and was set into relation with the available field of view of the T-junction.

Results: The results show that only a small portion of the drivers within the dataset would have posed an actual risk to cyclists crossing from the right side. Those situations with a higher safety criticality did not only arise when drivers intended to turn right, but also left.

Conclusion: Therefore, the analysis can only provide an explanation for the higher proportion of accidents between drivers turning right and cyclists crossing from the right side in certain situations. Further research, for example analyses of exposure data regarding the frequency of turning manoeuvers at T-junctions, is needed in order to explain the higher proportion of accidents between drivers turning right and cyclists crossing from the right side.