It's going to be a long hot summer and while most high school graduates sit around waiting to start college they will certainly hand around with their friends and end up on those country roads looking for something to occupy their time. Today's post is about uncontrolled intersections. The two boys in this story aren't yet in college but joyriding is something boys waiting to head off to college might find interesting so I'll add this to the Life on Campus section of the Lombardi Law Firm blog. Knowing or refreshing your memory about who has the right of way is a good idea.

Today we have two 16-year-old drivers, arriving simultaneously at an uncontrolled intersection southwest of Clarion who collided causing the death of a 15-year-old passenger. The young lad was from Dows, Iowa and is reported as a Mr. Garret Roberts. This is one of those very painful cases. The parents have a lot to deal with unfortunately. I lost my father when I was 13, I can't imagine how he'd have felt if it were me that died. I've heard it said there is nothing worse for a parent than the natural order of not living longer than your children being disrupted. We've represented many parents with this life-long adjustment to a child being accidentally killed. I'm not sure they every completely get over it. All of these cases bother me but one more than the rest. Her birthday just recently passed by. I'm always reminded of her on that day and it takes a little bit more than usual to get through the day. As you can see it's still bothering me. So when I see this 15-year-old boy with his whole life in front of him die because the right amount of care wasn't used when driving or perhaps the drivers' inexperience it bothers me immensely. So today let's remind them about who goes first and who gets to yield the right-of-way.

Young Iowa drivers ask yourselves do you know the answer to these questions. And if you don't know the answers you'd better learn them or put the driver's license away till you're old enough to read and drive with the correct level of responsibility.

What do you do when approaching an uncontrolled intersection?

Answer: Slow down. Look all ways. Be prepared to stop. Yield the car or truck on your left.

Who has the right of way at an uncontrolled intersection?

Answer: The car on the right has the right-of-way. The car that controls the intersection is the one already into the intersection. If they arrive at the same time then the one to the right gets to have the right-of-way. Control means the car is already into the intersection. First in - first out.

In Iowa what driver must yield at an uncontrolled intersection?

Answer: If you're coming from the left you shall yield the right-of-way to the vehicle on the right. Here is what the Uniform Jury Instructions state about Iowa law:

600.35  Approaching Or Entering Intersection.  When two vehicles enter an intersection at approximately the same time so that if both proceed without regard to the other a collision is reasonably to be expected, the vehicle on the left shall yield the right-of-way to the vehicle on the right.

A violation of this law is negligence.


Iowa Code section 321.319

Remember every driver has an ongoing duty to drive with due care and with a proper lookout. Here is what the Uniform Jury Instructions state about the law of lookout:

600.72  Lookout.  "Proper lookout" is the lookout a reasonable person would keep in the same or similar situation.  It means more than looking and seeing.  It includes being aware of the operation of the driver's vehicle in relation to what the driver saw or should have seen. [A driver need not keep a lookout to the rear all the time, but must be aware of the presence of others when the driver's actions may be dangerous to others.]

A violation of this duty is negligence.

I'll say one more thing about car accidents at intersections; and I'll address it to the young drivers. I'm not picking on you after all you're just learning the ways of the world and more adults have accidents. And that's my point. Adults are just as guilty about how they drive. In my neighborhood I live a four-way uncontrolled intersection. Two of those streets are cul de sacs. That means we get twice as much traffic and all neighbors who live on the cul de sac ending streets come by my home twice.  There is a guy and his wife who I swear think they are in a road race. I can hear their car engines rev up as they get up to ramp speed coming through the intersection. I've lived here for more than 10 years and have been waiting for the crash ever since the second week. Trust me it's coming but that's no excuse for me or my children to drive like idiots. And that goes for you. No matter how poor your parents drive don't be stupid and copycat them. Be smarter and drive safer. Stay alive and enjoy college. Life isn't always fair; so don't tempt fate and risk death or serious permanent injury. When you approach an intersection slow down and look both ways like your head is on a swivel. Don't assume the other guy will obey the law or that he/she even knows what the law states. They may not know. If all else seems to be failing then yield the right-of-way. Risking a high speed collision that takes the life of your BFF isn't worth the macho attitude.

Enough said, onward we march.

For additional information read the Des Moines Register articles:

Dows teen, 15, dies in auto accident, June 3, 2010.

Dows teenager killed in crash near Clarion, June 2, 2010

Steve Lombardi
Iowa personal injury, workers' compensation, motorcycle, quadriplegic, paraplegic, brain injury, death
Janet, It is difficult to answer your very pertinent question with the few facts and without hearing the other driver's explanation of the accident. Because after all there are two sides to every story. But you raise some very important facts and if all the physical evidence supports your statement about where the impact did occur, then chances are you could be right.
by Steve Lombardi June 7, 2016 at 07:50 AM
I have the same question as the one above! If I am already over half way through the intersection and get hit by a vehicle coming from my right on my rear passenger tire did I have control of the intersection because I was in first. First in first out? Or should I have to yield to the vehicle on my right even though he was not at the intersection when I entered it??
by Janet June 5, 2016 at 01:15 PM
You respond to the question who has the right of way in an uncontrolled intersection? The vehicle on the right has the right of way, but you continue by saying the vehicle that is already in the intersection, controls the intersection. By control you state mean the vehicle already in the intersection. First in first out. Can you explain how you came to this conclusion and what your using as a reference to make this conclusion. Thank you Toresa
by Toresa November 1, 2015 at 12:50 PM
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