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Ignoring Traffic Signs: It Happens That Much?

ignoring traffic signs & causing accidents
Ignoring Traffic Signs “Hey they don’t apply to me.” Really?

Ignoring traffic signs happens more often than it should.

Have you ever seen a driver blow through a stop sign and it ticks you off?

What about drivers like the one in the picture taking a left turn despite a clearly marked “no left turn” sign?

In that scenario as we see below no fewer than three – yes 3 – signs tell drivers “no left turn”.  Yet drivers disregard the traffic signs frequently.

The ‘law doesn’t apply to me’ mind-set actually shows up as a measurable thing.

In one study drivers reported coming across a variety of aggressive driving actions.

Three top flagrant violations observed in the study include the following:

  • 16% reported seeing other drivers running red lights.
  • 8% saw other drivers ignoring stop signs.
  • 3% encounter other drivers ignoring yield signs.

The numbers come from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s National Survey of Speeding and Unsafe Driving Attitudes and Behavior.

If you think those numbers are small, look at them another way.  According to Statista.com there are around 276 million private and commercial automobiles, including taxis, registered in the U.S.  The Commonwealth of Massachusetts hosts 2.3 million of those vehicles. New Hampshire records confirm just over 529,000 vehicles registered in the Granite State.

Do the math.  If 16% of the vehicles nationwide run red lights, that means 44 million vehicles run red lights on U.S. highways.  Narrow it down to just Massachusetts.  If 8% of the vehicles there blow through stop signs, the math shows 184,000 Massachusetts vehicles run stop signs.

‘No Left Turn’ Signs Blatantly Ignored

Take the case of a coffee shop on congested Route 125, also known as South Main Street in Haverhill, Massachusetts.  The coffee shop sits near a highly used connector to an industrial area, and is perched on the road hosting traffic running back and forth to nearby North Andover.

Customers grab coffee at the shop.  When they leave the free-standing business they encounter three “no left turn” signs.  One sign sits directly at the exit, one stands across the street, the third, lit up, warns “no left turn” and “right turn only.”

Despite fairly clear signs the setup provides easy pickings for police.  The Eagle Tribune reported in one day alone police issued six citations to scofflaw drivers turning left regardless of the clear obvious signage.

“Since the shop opened about a year ago, at least six crashes have been reported in the area.”

Drivers Ignore Traffic Controls at New Dunkin Donuts, Eagle Tribune, Feb. 26, 2020.

Injuries caused by drivers ignoring the signs include a broken tibia requiring surgical implantation of six screws and a plate in the leg of one unfortunate driver.

Ignoring Traffic Signs and Those who think it’s OK

You might think after an accident caused by a driver ignoring a traffic control sign the scofflaw and its insurance company would admit fault.  You might also be very wrong.

Take the case elsewhere of a truck that turned left, violating a traffic sign prohibiting left turns, directly into the path of a car coming through on a green light, causing a collision.  Police issued a summons to the left turning truck driver at the scene for failure to obey the no left turn sign.

Even after the left turner pled guilty to violating the “no left turn” sign, his insurance company pointed the finger at the other car.  They claimed, without evidence outside a bald affidavit, the other car was speeding, the truck was only going 5 miles an hour and the car hit the truck towards the back.

At the same time, the court shook its head.  In Simmons v. Canady the court pointed out that drivers approaching an intersection with the right-of-way have a right to anticipate that others will obey laws prohibiting left turns:

“A driver with the right of way is entitled to anticipate that the other driver will obey traffic laws that require him to yield.”

Simmons v. Canady, 2011 NY Slip Op 51020.

Most noteworthy that court drafted the kindest legal verbiage it could muster in a warning to pay attention.  Drivers, that court held, face responsibility for accidents caused when they fail to see that which “through proper use of the driver’s senses he or she should have seen.”

If you’re surprised that an insurance company would actually fight for and defend their driver even after he pled guilty to ignoring the ‘no left turn’ sign, don’t be.  It’s what they do as pointed out by industry insiders we’ve discussed elsewhere.

Ignoring Traffic Signs and Common Sense

The above accident case comes to us from New York, where, to be fair, the law is slightly different than some other states.  Under that state’s ‘negligence per se’ law, those found responsible for having violated a relevant regulation are considered negligent ‘per se’ in an associated negligence claim.  Massachusetts and New Hampshire law, for example, provide a slightly different framework.

New Hampshire and Massachusetts law hold that a violator of even a relevant regulation is not automatically at fault.  Instead the violation provides ‘evidence of negligence’.  What that means is no ‘per se’ negligence conclusion.  Defenses can be hurled up at the wall, but it’s up to a court and/or jury to see if they stick.

In the end it should be fairly clear, ignoring traffic signs violates the law and is just an all around bad idea.


If another driver has disregarded common sense and traffic law causing injuries to you or a loved one, the Law Offices of Andrew D. Myers stand ready to assist.  As clear as it may be to you and I that the negligence of another has caused harm, as you can see the insurance companies rarely accept it as an “open and shut” case.  Contact our office through the tab on the upper right of this page.  Or call one of the telephone numbers at the top of this screen.

Sources:

Drivers Ignore Traffic Controls at New Dunkin Donuts, Eagle Tribune, Feb. 26, 2020. Link.

National Survey of Speeding and Unsafe Driving Attitudes and Behavior, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Number of Vehicles in Operation in the United States; statista.com.

Simmons v. Canady, 2011 NY Slip Op 51020. Link.

 

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Attorney Myers is a member of the American Trial Lawyers Association, Massachusetts Academy of Trial Lawyers, and New Hampshire Trial Lawyers Association. The Law Offices of Andrew D. Myers offer a broad range of legal services in personal injury cases in Massachusetts (MA) and New Hampshire (NH) areas.

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