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Ask a Trooper: Passing at intersections

October 31, 2014
Estherville News

Q: Is it illegal to pass someone at an intersection? What about tractors and combines? Does the law allow for passing these vehicles because they are moving so much slower?

A: This is an excellent line of questions for the harvest season that is well underway. Crashes at intersections are generally on the serious side, especially where stopped traffic is interacting with vehicles traveling in excess of 55 MPH. Add in the challenges of larger and slower implements and the results can be fatal.

Iowa code section 321.304 states that it is illegal to pass within 100 feet of any intersection. If we continue this line of questioning it leads us to ask what is, and what is not an intersection? Intersections are essentially where two or more public roadways meet. This would include named city streets, county blacktops, state highways, AND GRAVEL ROADS. Field and private driveways along blacktops and other highways ARE NOT PUBLIC ROADWAYS, therefore are not considered intersections. This is an important distinction to make, with gravel roads intersecting highways at just about every mile in Iowa.

Explaining the reasoning for this law is just as important, apart from the parental standard 'because I said so'. The attached diagram shows an intersection with a vehicle that is making an illegal pass. The first reason for this law is the possibility that the vehicle being overtaken will turn left. Yes, the turning vehicle would be required to use a turn signal, but does everyone use their turn signals faithfully? This can result in a sideswipe or T-bone crash, usually sending both vehicles into the ditch. The second reason for this law is traffic coming from the left side of the diagram up to the intersection may turn right. When making a right turn onto a highway it makes sense to worry about traffic coming from the left. But how many drivers turn without looking right? These motorists have no idea that someone could be in their lane making a passleading to a high-speed, head-on collision.

Even though it may seem OK to pass implements in no passing zones, the code does not allow it. "But passing zones were constructed with 55 MPH traffic in mind." "But the farmer waved me byhe could see over the hill." "But he was going so slow I made it around without any problems." All three mindsets are common for those passing implements illegally, and have led to fatal results.

Resist the urge to save some time start and complete your passes in marked passing zones, taking into consideration the 100 foot rule around intersections. Those chances taken to save time could end up costing you in the long run.

"Ask a Trooper" is a reader-directed, bi-monthly publication that appears in 30 newspapers across western Iowa. Submit your question to your local editor, or directly to Trooper Kurtz at



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