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Right-of-way laws are probably something you learned decades ago in driver’s education, and your memory of them may be a little more than fuzzy these days. If you ask your average Montana motorist what the standard right of way laws are across the state, odds are you’ll get a pretty mixed bag of answers. But if you find yourself in an auto or truck accident, right-of-way laws suddenly become paramount to the conversation around fault and who pays for what. If you’ve been in an accident of some sort and are looking for a refresh on Montana’s right of way laws, look no further.
Today, we’re breaking down right-of-way laws in Montana to help you determine who is at fault in a number of different accident scenarios. To begin, these laws are broken down into several categories, including pedestrian, crosswalks, emergency vehicles, funeral processions, and intersections.
It’s incredibly important to understand the pedestrian right of way laws in Montana, as so many places across the state see heavy foot traffic when it comes to a means of getting around town. Pedestrians are bound by right-of-way laws just like motorists are. In Montana, pedestrians have the right-of-way on sidewalks and when crossing the roadway at a marked or unmarked crosswalk. You can read more about Pedestrian Traffic laws in the Montana Annotated Code 2019.
As a motorist, you’re required to yield to all pedestrians at crosswalks. If you attempt to make a right turn over a crosswalk, you may make your turn once pedestrians using the crosswalk are safely on the opposite portion of the road. Lastly, if the vehicle in front of you has stopped at a crosswalk, you may not pass the vehicle.
In any state, intersection right-of-way laws are by far the most confusing, with hundreds of scenarios to consider. The term intersection refers to more than you might think, be it an actual crossroads, a point where an alley or driveway meets the street, a traffic circle, and so on. First, if you find yourself emerging from a parking lot, alley, or driveway, you must always yield the right of way to any pedestrians who are on the street. The same is true for any traffic that is already on the road. Likewise, you are not permitted to remain in an intersection, even if the light is in your favor. Instead, hang back and wait until there is enough space for you to safely cross through the intersection without the risk of blocking oncoming traffic.
While laws may be clear when it comes to signalized intersections and those with stop signs, Montana is also full of unmarked intersections. This refers to an intersection of two roads without any lights or stop signs present. These are especially common in neighborhoods and more residential areas. When approaching one of these unmarked intersections, you are not required to stop, but you are required to yield to any traffic coming from your right. It’s always a good idea to slow down so that you better observe approaching vehicles. The vehicle to your right will have the legal right of way, regardless of who gets there first.
When approaching an intersection marked with four-way stop signs, whoever reaches the intersection first has the right of way. Lastly, in any roundabout you come to, the traffic that is already moving through the roundabout will always have the right-of-way. You must first yield to other traffic in the roundabout before entering.
You can find all detailed laws about Vehicle Operating Requirement in the Montana Code Annotated here.
Any time you see an emergency vehicle, you should be ready to yield to their path. This refers to any vehicle that has its siren on or has red and blue lights actively flashing. Whenever you see one of these emergency vehicles approaching, it is important to pull over in the direction that puts you and the emergency vehicle out of one another’s path. If you are at an intersection with an emergency vehicle behind you, don’t stop. Proceed through the intersection and then promptly pull your vehicle out of the way. Read more on Montana’s Emergency Vehicle laws in the Montana Code Annotated 2019.
Likewise, funeral processions will always have the legal right of way, with the exception to that of an emergency vehicle. If a funeral procession is moving through an intersection, you must yield to it. This is true even when you may have a green light, and the typical rules of the road would say you may proceed. When led by a funeral lead vehicle or a funeral escort vehicle, the procession trumps your standard right of way through the intersection.
If you’ve found yourself in an accident involving right-of-way laws and believe you are not at fault, give the experienced attorneys at Cok Kinzler a call. We’ll help answer any questions you may have about the legality surrounding your accident and how Montana’s laws apply to your unique situation.