Right-of-way violations are common

Among the most common traffic infractions in Douglas County that top last year's statistics are speeding and driver's license violations, Douglas County sheriff's statistics show.

By By: Terri Moon Cronk
Posted

Among the most common traffic infractions in Douglas County that top last year's statistics are speeding and driver's license violations, Douglas County sheriff's statistics show.

Another category that reflects numerous infractions is right of way. The Colorado State Patrol lists in its codes the 11 most frequently committed right-of-way infractions.

They are:

q failing to stop at a stop sign;

q failing to yield right of way when leaving a stop sign;

q failing to yield right of way when turning left in front of oncoming traffic;

q failing to obey traffic control signals, such as a stop light;

q failing to signal as required or giving the wrong signal to turn, stop or suddenly decrease in speed.

q failing to drive in a single lane - also called "weaving";

q changing lanes when it's unsafe;

q changing lanes when prohibited by official traffic-control devices such as stop lights;

q passing on the left when prohibited by signs and markings (such as driving on a dirt shoulder);

q speeding, particularly when in unsafe conditions; and

q failing to notify police of an accident.

It's likely that aggressive driving can easily stem from a right-of-way issue. But after many years of driving, do motorists forget the fine points, even though they're based on common sense? Are people simply in a hurry?

Either way, watching a driver violate a right-of-way rule is enough to make one's blood boil.

"With the county's population growth, people think others will not see them commit a right-of-way violation," said sheriff's spokesman Deputy Bernard Harris. "What drivers might perceive to be a minor violation in right of way in reality can be major and result in accidents and even death."

Colorado's "55 Alive" driving program can help. More than a re-education of how to drive, some motorists also are eligible for lesser insurance costs.

One lesson of the program is that drivers who have the right of way and who refuse to budge, thus becoming party to an accident, also can be cited for failure to avoid an accident, the sheriff's office said.

The sheriff's office wrote 23,165 citations in 2000 and 22,497 in 1999.

In 2000, citations were issued for

q speeding, 7,871;

q driver's license violations, 1,579;

q other violations, a miscellaneous category, 2,807;

q seat-belt violations, 1,783;

q sign or signal violations, 1,817;

q no proof of insurance, 1,386;

q equipment violations such as burned out lights, 1,188;

q other hazardous conditions such as no restraints, 1,125;

q parking violations, 1,017;

q improper turning, 654;

q drunken driving, 634;

q reckless driving, 533;

q improper lane use, 490 (an example would be a motorist, who turns into the far outside right lane rather than the far inside left lane before he waits to make sure no one is there and signals to change);

q right-of-way violations, 281.

But peace officers who watch for right-of-way issues also have numerous potentially dangerous infractions for which to watch.

They watch for motorists following too closely and "other" violations, such as seat-belt violations.

"We want to keep our children safe," Harris said.

Also, pedestrians have the right of way only in a crosswalk that is clearly marked with a sign for the driver.

When at a four-way stop, the car that arrived first always goes first. From there, with several arriving all at once, the car on the right goes first. And in those unusual circumstances when four cars arrive at the same four-way intersection at the same time, it's incumbent upon someone to wave a car through, so the others starting on the right can proceed.

Patrolmen say the most dangerous scenario is when motorists don't move out of the way when emergency vehicles need to pass by.

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