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Ask a Trooper: Uncontrolled intersections

February 20, 2015
By Trooper Vince Kurtz - Iowa State Patrol Safety Education , Estherville News

Q: There seems to be a lot of intersections in my town that do not have a stop or yield sign. Who has the right of way?

A: What do our readers think?

A. The vehicle that has control of the intersection.

B. The biggest vehicle.

C. The vehicle on the right.

D. No one has the right away unless it is given to them.

The photo for this week's question was taken from a crash in November involving this exact issue. This intersection was uncontrolled, and in the middle of nowhere. It begs the question, what are the chances of two vehicles meeting at this intersection, in the middle of nowhere, at the very same time?

On this day, it was 100 percent.

There are thousands of uncontrolled intersections throughout Iowa, in our cities and on our secondary road system. In fact, it would be hard to drive through any town without encountering at least one of these intersections.

How do you think you did on the pre-test? The short answer to our question would be

C. The vehicle on the right.

Iowa code section 321.319 specifies that the vehicle on the right has the right of way at uncontrolled intersections. A violation of this section carries a $195 fine. This includes all uncontrolled intersections, regardless of rural or urban locations. It also includes three-way uncontrolled intersections where traffic on the road that goes straight is assumed to have the right of way.

A very dangerous mindset often accompanies this code section, and needs to be avoided at all costs. This is the mindset that says,

'If I have the right of way, everyone is always going to recognize this and yield to me.'

Those who have been driving on our roads for some time recognize this mindset for what it is a false assumption that will eventually lead to a crash. It is always better to error on the safe side by driving defensively, and not taking it for granted that everyone is going to do the right thing. In this respect, the better answer to our question could be "D."

What are the chances you will meet another car at that uncontrolled intersection, in the middle of nowhere? It's best to play it as 100 percent.



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