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This blog post is for those of you who struggled to concentrate at your 6 a.m. high school driver’s ed courses.  You may have sleepily absorbed that the proper hand positions while driving are ten and two (or the far less preferable nine and three), but do you recall the finer points of driving laws?

We have discussed the merits of defensive driving, but taking it further, let’s discuss using caution at intersections.  Mont. Code Ann. 61-8-339(1) states that then two or more vehicles enter or approach and intersection from different highways (don’t try to determine that your local street is not a highway, for purposes of the MCA, it is), the driver of the vehicle on the left shall yield the right of way to all vehicles approaching from the right that are close enough to produce an immediate hazard. 

That seems pretty self-explanatory, right?  If you and another driver reach an unregulated intersection at the same time and they are to the right, by all means, you must stop for them.  It’s the language at the end of this ever so helpful law that presents a bit of a conundrum.  How exactly is an immediate hazard defined?  The statute doesn’t even contemplate a specific number of feet.

This statute is intended to determine the status of vehicles approaching an intersection as “favored” or “unfavored” driver in order to “facilitate the orderly movement of automobiles.”  Tonner v. Cirian, 2012 MT 314, ¶ 11, 367 Mont. 487, P.3d 1182. Even if you are the “favored” vehicle, however, you can still be seen as negligent in some instances.  Conversely, even if you determined that the vehicle to your right was far enough away that you could proceed and it wouldn’t produce this mysterious immediate hazard, you can still be at fault in the event of a car accident.

To help you navigate through the muddy waters of vague statutory terms- my best advice would be to always proceed with caution at any intersection, whether or not you are technically to the right.  All too often, drivers fail to yield, and that is how car accidents happen.  Practice those defensive driving techniques.  Even if you are in the right, both literally and figuratively, take a moment to stop at an unregulated section and ensure that the “unfavored” vehicle to your left has begun to stop before you proceed.  These extra few seconds could prevent a tremendous amount of financial and physical strain.

Were you the victim of a car crash where the unfavored driver failed to yield to your obviously favored vehicle?  Contact the attorneys at Bryan, diStefano & Mattingley, PLLP today to set up a free consultation.  Our experienced staff will advocate for you to receive compensation for any injuries you or your car may have sustained.