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Rules Of The Road

April 14, 2011
by Dan Voigt , Emmetsburg News

With the arrival of more Spring-like weather, people are getting out and about on the roadways and the streets of our area. While the prices of fuel are making people think more about their travel habits, there are some habits that don't need to be thought about they need to be changed quickly.

Case in point Monday afternoon, members of the Emmetsburg Fire Department were called to a motor vehicle accident at the west junction of Highways Four and 18 outside of town. I happened to be at the stoplights at Main and Broadway and heard the sirens of an approaching fire truck down the street, As the light had just turned red, I stopped and moments later saw the fire truck turn onto Main, heading west, with its emergency lights and siren operating.

At the same time, a pickup with gooseneck trailer carrying farm chemicals passed through the intersection, heading west, in the outside lane and coming up behind it in the inside lane was a semi with a livestock trailer full of hogs, also heading west. The two trucks continued west, side by side, past the theater as the fire truck passed through the intersection of Main and Broadway also heading west.

As the light turned green, I turned left and started west, watching the scene develop ahead of me. The pickup and trailer and the semi both continued west, not slowing, while the fire truck had to slow and fall in behind the semi, despite the lights and siren, as the vehicles climbed the hill towards Harrison Park.

This continued until the pickup finally slowed in the outside lane and allowed the semi to get ahead of him and pull to the right, allowing the fire truck to pass, just in front of the VFW on West Main.

I turned off Main and proceeded to the accident via a back road and arrived at the scene. One firefighter asked me if I had seen the two trucks that blocked their path for almost six blocks without yielding. I answered that I had, and low and behold, both vehicles, which had been held up by traffic backed up at the accident scene, passed through the intersection, albeit slowly. The pickup driver looked quickly as the firefighter made eye contact and looked away. The semi driver never looked, concentrating solely on the road ahead of him.

It's no great surprise, is it? ALL VEHICLES must pull to the right and yield to any emergency vehicle operating warning lights and sirens. Fire truck, ambulance, squad car, it doesn't matter. The law says a driver shall yield to any emergency vehicle, or be punishable by fines as set forth in statutes.

So what's a driver to do when you hear a siren? First, don't lock up the brakes just pull over and yield, it will only take a few moments out of your busy day.

And while we're at it, here's another couple of traffic rules that seem to be overlooked more and more.

How about the term "right of way" or "yield to the vehicle on the right?" There are many uncontrolled intersections, both in towns and in the country, where there are no signs to regulate who stops and who yields. The longtime rule of thumb is to always yield to a vehicle on your right. Short and simple Yield to the vehicle on the right.

To go along with that, there is a lever that sticks out from every vehicle's steering column, usually on the left side, that goes up and down. You press it down when you turn left, and push it up when you turn right. Moving this stick makes little lights on both ends of your vehicle flash on and off.

Why? It's to let other people know what direction you are going. The stick is called a turn signal.

We've all heard the old joke: "you know you live in a small town when you don't need to use your turn signal because everyone knows where you're going anyway." Well, it's no joke you do need to use the signals because the car that hits you when you turn in front of them may be from out of town and not know you.

Basically, these are three common sense habits all drivers seem to overlook at times, and I'll be the first to admit I fall in that category at times, but there are others of us out there that seem to have never mastered any of these traits.



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