Failure to Yield Causes Fatal Accidents: When Do Springfield, Missouri Drivers Have the Right of Way?

March 13, 2012,

697790_dont_turn_left.jpgThe Greene County car accident attorneys have noted several recent reports of local accidents caused by a driver's failure to yield the right of way. Failing to yield has long been a common catalyst for injury and fatality accidents - here in Missouri and nationwide.

This week in Aztec, New Mexico, police are investigating a fatal accident caused by one driver's failure to yield the right of way. Last Friday, 83 year-old John Gustafson was traveling west when he approached what has been called a "heavily traveled highway intersection." As the light turned yellow, Gustafson attempted to turn left, and his Kia Rondo was subsequently T-boned by an eastbound semi.

Gustafson was killed, while the truck driver sustained minor injuries. Local police continue to investigate the accident; however, Sgt. Joseph Gonzales of the Aztec Police Department says it appears that Gustafson simply failed to yield to the truck, and that the semi was too close to the intersection to stop in time. Police do not believe speed or driver impairment played a role in the collision, though they will have to determine how fast the semi was traveling when the collision occurred. They also plan to examine surveillance footage from a nearby bank.

Right of way issues cause numerous accidents throughout Missouri. In particular, these kinds of crashes are prevalent at intersections that are equipped with stoplights that do not have left turn arrows to allow protected left turns. At these intersections - and there are many throughout the Queen City - drivers making left turns are always expected to yield.

According to findings from the National Safety Council, 14% of all fatal traffic accidents are caused by a driver's failure to yield. Sometimes, this behavior is associated with aggressive driving tendencies - deliberately careless behaviors that increase the risk of an accident. The American Automobile Association's (AAA) Foundation for Traffic Safety reports that these behaviors are "typically motivated by impatience, annoyance, hostility, or all of the above." In other words, a driver is frustrated by slow moving traffic, or in a hurry to make it through an intersection, or angry about another driver's actions: and, as a result, that driver makes a rash, reckless decision. However, there are also a good number of drivers who fail to yield simply because they don't understand who has the right of way.

In these situations, you are legally required to yield:
• At yield signs
• At intersections that are "uncontrolled" (i.e. there are no lights or signs) when another vehicle is already passing through the intersection
• At "T" intersections, when another vehicle is on the through road
• To all pedestrians at intersections and crosswalks, particularly those who are sight-impaired (using a seeing eye dog or a white cane)
• To emergency vehicles, construction vehicles, and school buses (when appropriate)
• When making a left turn that is unprotected (i.e. there is no left turn arrow)
• When leaving a parking space

The "Yield to the Driver on the Right" rule
This guideline applies to situations where multiple vehicles approach an intersection simultaneously, and it is frequently misunderstood by Missouri drivers. If you arrive at a four-way stop sign at the same time as another vehicle, then the vehicle on the right should be allowed to proceed through the intersection first.

It's important to remember that traffic laws actually don't "give" the right of way to anyone. Instead, these laws identify specific situations where drivers must concede the right of way. As a responsible motorist, you are legally required to take actions to prevent an accident when possible, even if that means letting someone go in front of you. For example, if you approach an intersection and see a vehicle making an illegal left turn, you must attempt to stop. Speeding up - because you're angry that the vehicle is turning illegally, perhaps - is not a legally acceptable response. If an accident occurs, some measure of the fault can be transferred to you.

Let's work together to make Missouri's roadways safer: we challenge you to be a responsible, attentive driver. Pay careful attention to traffic signals and to other vehicles and give yourself time and space to respond accordingly if something unexpected happens. Finally, don't react to your annoyance at another driver (or traffic in general) by making a rash choice that could permanently affect your life. It sounds pretty simple, we know, but these behaviors could make a world of difference.

The attorneys at Aaron Sachs and Associates are passionate about representing the rights and interests of car accident injury victims. If we can assist you with an accident injury claim in Springfield, Nixa, Ozark, Republic or any of the surrounding areas, please contact our office toll-free at 1-888-777-AUTO.

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