Violating The “Rules Of The Road” May Cost You More Than A Traffic Ticket

Iowa Code Chapter 321 contains a dizzying array of “rules of the road.”  These are the sorts of motor vehicle statutes (for example, stopping at a stop sign or speeding), that are generally enforced through traffic tickets and small fines.   But what if, while rolling through a stop sign or barreling down the road in excess of the speed limit, you cause an accident?  Besides a traffic ticket, you could also be facing a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit.  And in most cases, your violation of the rules of the road will be considered automatic negligence and will result in an almost certain finding of liability against you.  So what are some of the more common rules of the road that drivers violate on their way to a civil lawsuit for negligence?

1. Any person driving a vehicle on a highway shall drive at a careful speed not greater than nor less than is reasonable and proper, having due regard for the traffic, surface and width of the highway and of any other existing conditions.

2.  Speeding in excess of posted or statutory limits.  Regardless of the posted speed limit, no person shall drive any vehicle on a highway at a speed greater than will permit them to stop within the assured clear distance ahead.  The words “within the assured clear distance ahead” mean the distance from which noticeable objects, reasonably expected or anticipated to be upon the highway, may be seen.  Road conditions may be such that speed should be less than the legal limit.  Traffic laws call for the minimum of care and not the maximum.  A driver should not operate a vehicle up to the legal speed limit if the circumstances are such that ordinary care requires a lesser speed.

3.  A driver must have his or her vehicle under control.  It is under control when the driver can guide and direct its movement, control its speed and stop it reasonably fast.  A driver operating a vehicle must have it under control and shall reduce its speed to a reasonable and proper rate when approaching and traveling through a crossing or intersection of highways.

4.  The driver of a vehicle shall not follow another vehicle closer than is reasonable, considering the speed of the vehicles, the traffic and the condition of the highway.

5.  Maintaining a proper 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.


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