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The Right Hand Rule

Published: Thursday, April 11, 2013 11:50 a.m. CST

There’s something I’ve started noticing around town, and I didn’t think it was a problem up until recently.

I’ve noticed them mostly in quiet and quaint residential neighborhoods, where they seem fitting and operate without a hitch. There’s one, however, a lot closer to downtown that makes me decently uncomfortable whenever I drive by.

Perhaps I’m used to the larger communities I grew up and went to college in — populations of 101,081 and 59,042, respectively — but barring gravel roads out in the country, never before had I seen an intersection within a city without any form of right-of-way signage.

The particular intersection I’m referencing sits at East Second St. South and South Third Ave. East. Situated among many intersections that simply have two-way stops, it’s easy to assume that this particular intersection, too, requires other drivers to yield to your vehicle. This however, isn’t usually the case.

Its proximity to downtown, however, means it sees a bit more traffic than would be expected, say, on the southwest side of town, from those avoiding the ill-timed stoplights along First Avenue.

Despite its typical residential neighborhood speed limit of 25 mph, I often see vehicles zip through the intersection without a care or a brake light, sometimes slamming on my own brakes to protect my car. In fact, I did a little not-so-scientific research myself this week and found that, of the 13 drivers I watched pass through the intersection, only four yielded enough to avoid a collision had another vehicle been approaching.

I figure I can’t be the only person that has experienced such close calls at this intersection (and a handful of other around town). I always make a point to let my friends from out of town know — usually in the form of a last-minute “Stop stop stop stop! There’s no stop sign at this intersection!” — but I imagine visitors from out of town haven’t always been so lucky.

I became rather concerned after the second and third times I narrowly avoiding being T-boned by cars much larger than my tiny Hyundai. These encounters made me curious, so I turned to a resource I hadn’t consulted since taking my driver’s test at 16: the Iowa Department of Transportation Driver’s Manual.

In the section “Traffic Signs and Rules of the Road,” it states: “At an intersection where there is no stop sign or traffic signal, drivers must yield to vehicles coming from the right” – huh, who knew? (Cue NBC’s “The More You Know” animation.)

I realize driving can be a tricky topic to tackle, but I urge you to be a bit more careful while driving, especially close to downtown. We all have mornings we’re running a bit late (I know, I don’t like waking up before 7 a.m. either), but when you consider speed limits, pedestrians and intersections like the one at East Second St. South and South Third Ave., taking a few more seconds to yield and look both ways is all it takes to prevent similar close calls.