In 2017, there were 17,691 injuries and 228 deaths on Nebraska roads, caused by preventable driver errors. This is according to the Nebraska Crash Facts publication from the Department of Transportation. This equates to an injury or death every 30 minutes in our state.

The number one cause of crashes is the failure of a driver to yield the right of way. Of course, this isn’t the only cause of crashes, but failure-to-yield crashes are more than double the next leading cause disobeying traffic controls (such as stop lights or stop signs).

What is especially troubling is fact that collision such as this often involve crashes at dangerous speeds, because they typically occur in intersections.

Typically, there are really two explanations for why drivers fail to follow these very important safety rules of the road. First is the simple fact that the drivers are not patient or are willing to take risks instead of yielding to other drivers with the right of way.

This usually happens when someone is waiting to enter traffic or turn across traffic. A 2019 Survey by OnePoll found that people surveyed expressed impatience and frustration if they had to wait more that 14 minutes for a meal they ordered. This is some serious impatience.

But surely, that couldn’t be a problem for people in traffic, where impatience can equate to serious injury or death, could it? Sadly, yes. The same study found that people became impatient after only 25 seconds waiting for a traffic light to change.

We are increasingly impatient about our waiting time. From web page loading times, to waiting for ink to dry on a printed document, we don’t like to wait. As you can see from the statistics, though, if there is one place we need to keep our impatience in check, it is on the road. These collisions are completely avoidable, and when they occur, they are usually very serious.

The second reason for these very avoidable collisions is inexperience. Either drivers do not know the rules of the road or they don’t have enough experience applying them to do so safely. Right of way rules are critical to the safe flow of traffic and way too many drivers have no idea how those rules apply.

Let’s take a look at some scenarios and refresh our memories on how these rules apply.

First, if you arrive at an intersection that has no stop signs or traffic lights for any of the road (“uncontrolled” intersection), you always slow down. Any car approaching from your right, has the right of way, over you. It isn’t a race, either, getting there first doesn’t “win the right of way.” Yield to the car on the right. If there are more than the two of you, each car must yield to the car to its right.

Assume for this image, that North is up. In this image, the red car (headed north) must yield to the blue car.

What if there were another car (Yellow for our demonstration) that is at the intersection, and going south? In that scenario, the blue car must first yield to the yellow car. Then the red car yields to the blue car. Some might guess it is automatically the red car’s turn to go, at the same time as the yellow, but, that is not the law. This is often what happens at 4-way stop signs and is efficient. It is dangerous, though, at an intersection with no traffic controls.

Our next scenario, might be two cars approaching each other, and one car wants to turn left. Let’s imagine that in the image above, there is the yellow car, again, going south. (For this first example, the blue car is not there). And the northbound car (red) wishes to turn left. The red car must yield to the car going straight.

Now, let’s add the blue car. And let’s imagine the blue car has a stop sign. The red car intending to turn left, must first yield to the yellow car. When the red car has turned, finally, it is the blue car’s turn to leave the stop sign.

Any car waiting at a stop sign has an obligation, first, to stop where it can see all approaching cross- traffic. Next, a car at a stop sign must wait for all cross traffic that does not have a red light or stop sign to clear the intersection, and must yield to any car that is close enough to pose a hazard, if the car pulls out from a stop sign.

It is the obligation of the person at the stop sign to see any car approaching, no matter what speed, and to wait for that car to clear the intersection, before pulling out.

One of the most dangerous places on our roads, today are intersections. Knowing the rules of the road, and how they apply to your situation is critical to protect us all, and to prevent injury and death. If you are a little rusty on these rules, you can review all of the right of way rules here: https://dmv.nebraska.gov/sites/dmv.nebraska.gov/files/doc/manuals/engdrivermanual.pdf

Parents, if you have young drivers, review the rules with them, and when driving with them, show them when situations arise that involve these right of way rules of the road.

If you have been involved in a car collision that wasn’t your fault. And if you believe a driver failed to follow these rules, please feel free to contact the Law Office of Matthew A. Lathrop. We offer free consultations by phone or in person, and we have numerous free consumer guides that may be able to help you with your situation.

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