Driving becomes second nature to many people and the rules of the road sometimes go lax. In Sidney, this problem is all too prevalent at the many uncontrolled intersections around town, both in residential and business districts. Sidney Police Department Capt. Mark Kraft said it’s a topic they are all too aware of.
“We don’t generally issue a lot of tickets for a right-of-way violation at uncontrolled intersections unless there is a collision,” Kraft said. “That rule everyone learns in drivers training and I’m sure it’s tested on when you get your drivers license, but remembering you need to yield to the vehicle on the right at an uncontrolled intersection is a rule a lot people forget about.”
Kraft said essentially, vehicles need to yield to traffic on the right if it’s close enough to constitute a hazard. That language is clearly state in Montana Code Annotated 61-8-339.
A common misconception of uncontrolled intersections is the first to arrive is the first to go and that is not how the law is written. The vehicle to the right has the right-of-way.
“If somebody is a block down the road to the right of you heading your direction and you have to safely get through the intersection, then go ahead,” Kraft said. “I just urge everybody to drive defensively.”
Driving defensively means be extra cautious, don’t anticipate other driver’s will obey traffic laws and to be aware. Kraft said even in instances when he does have the right-of-way, he keeps his eye on what’s going on and his foot ready to brake if needed.
“If it doesn’t look like they’re going to stop, then I’ll stop. The little bit of delay certainly beats the big delay of dealing with a damaged vehicle,” he said.
Another misconception that comes up in Sidney is people perceiving busier or more heavily-used residential streets qualify as a “through street,” which also isn’t the case.
“Watch the signs if the intersecting road does not have a yield signs or stop signs. Even if it feels like they should probably be stopping, this is a little busier thoroughfare, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re on a through street,” Kraft said.
Mostly, drivers need to pay more attention. First to arrive is not first to go and busier side streets do no constitute a thoroughfare. Vehicles must yield to the right at uncontrolled intersections.