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  • Writer's pictureTom Fowler

What Are the Right-of-way Laws in Iowa? | Tom Fowler Law

When cruising down the highways and byways of Iowa, understanding right-of-way laws is essential. These rules keep everyone safe and ensure smooth traffic flow. Knowing the rights and responsibilities can prevent accidents and legal headaches, whether a seasoned local or just passing through.


In simple terms, right of way refers to the legal right of a vehicle, pedestrian, or entity to proceed first in traffic. They can take precedence over others in a particular situation. It's a standard social cue for traffic, helping everyone move without confusion or conflict.


According to Iowa law, right-of-way rules apply to various scenarios, including intersections, crosswalks, and merging lanes. Emergency vehicles with sirens and flashing lights always have the right of way. Drivers must move to the side of the road and allow them to pass.


Similarly, when a school bus displays its stop sign and flashing lights, drivers in both directions must stop and remain stationary until the bus resumes motion. In Iowa's countryside, right-of-way rules extend beyond just vehicles and pedestrians. Property owners also have rights and responsibilities, especially concerning highways and roads that run through their land.


Anyone unsure about their rights and responsibilities regarding right-of-way laws under the Iowa Code (2018 version, section 321.319) must seek guidance. County and city authorities can provide information and assistance; many have resources on their websites. In general, right-of-way laws apply to the total area of land under the public ownership of the government. can also help with questions like Are airbags more dangerous than good?


What Does Highway Right-of-way Mean?

What Does Highway Right-of-way Mean?


In the vast network of roads crisscrossing communities, highway right-of-way ensures safe and efficient travel for all. Still, what exactly does this term mean?


Simply put, this type of right-of-way refers to the legal authority granted to vehicles and pedestrians to proceed unhindered on a roadway. It delineates the area of land designated for public use, typically for constructing and maintaining roads, streets, and highways.


  • Traffic Flow

By designating specific areas for roads and highways, right-of-way ensures the orderly movement of vehicles, reducing congestion and improving overall traffic flow.


  • Safety

Clear highway right-of-way markings and regulations help prevent accidents and collisions. They can clarify who has precedence in various traffic situations. While highways are public property, adjacent landowners also play a role in maintaining the right-of-way.


  • Vegetation Control

Property owners are often responsible for trimming trees, bushes, and other vegetation within the highway right-of-way to ensure clear driver visibility. Growing crops is also prohibited.


  • Fence Maintenance

Fences along highways are typically the responsibility of the adjacent property owner. Keeping fences in good repair and out of the way helps prevent accidents and ensures the safety of both motorists and pedestrians.


  • Ditch Clearing

Landowners may be required to maintain ditches and drainage channels within the right-of-way to prevent flooding and erosion, impacting road safety.


Five Standard Street Rules in Iowa


Road safety is a shared responsibility. According to the updated Iowa code, drivers must follow a few key rules on the roadways.


Yield to the Right-of-way 

One of Iowa's main road etiquette principles is yielding to the right of way. When approaching an intersection or a merge point, drivers must yield to vehicles coming from the right. This simple rule helps prevent accidents and ensures a smoother flow of traffic.


Pedestrians Have the Right-of-way

In the Hawkeye State, pedestrians always have the right-of-way at marked or unmarked crosswalks. Drivers must be vigilant and yield to pedestrians, allowing them to cross safely. Passersby may not always be easily visible, so it's essential to stay alert, especially in urban areas.


First Come, First Serve Rule 

When multiple vehicles arrive at an intersection simultaneously, the first car to come to a complete stop has the right-of-way. If two automobiles arrive simultaneously, the vehicle on the right proceeds first. This "first come, first serve" rule helps maintain order and clarity at intersections.


Observing Turn Signals 

Using turn signals is a legal requirement and a courtesy to other drivers. Before turning or changing lanes, motorists must signal their intentions in advance. This allows other drivers to anticipate their actions and adjust their driving accordingly, promoting smoother flow and reducing the risk of accidents.


Right Turns First

The first vehicle to arrive has the right of way at a four-way stop. If all cars arrive at the same time, the automobile on the right proceeds first. Additionally, vehicles turning left must yield to oncoming traffic unless they have a green arrow.


The Law Can Bill the Abutting Property Owner for Illegally Building Fences on Roadways


In the heart of Iowa, where open landscapes and winding roads define the countryside, the issue of illegally constructed fences along highways is more common than most people think. Property owners who unlawfully erect fences along these routes can impede visibility, obstruct access for maintenance and emergency vehicles, and pose hazards to motorists and pedestrians alike.


Authorities have the power to take action against such violations. They can remove the fence and impose fines or penalties on the responsible party. Causing unwanted physical change to public spaces can hold abutting property owners accountable for their actions. The best personal injury lawyers in Des Moines can give more insight on this.


Contesting Removal Notices on Right-of-way Locations

Contesting Removal Notices on Right-of-way Locations


When property owners receive a removal notice for encroachments on right-of-way locations, such as fences, structures, or vegetation, it can be a daunting and unsettling experience. While removal notices may seem final, property owners have options for contestation under certain circumstances.


Common grounds for contestation may include disputing the accuracy of the notice. Landowners can also demonstrate that the encroachment predates the establishment of the right-of-way. They may present evidence of mitigating factors that justify the retention of encroachment.


While property owners have the right to contest removal notices, it's essential to consider the broader community impact of their actions. Encroachments on right-of-way locations can impede traffic flow, hinder maintenance efforts, and compromise public safety. Tom Fowler Law can also help with how to avoid insurance increase after accident.


Final Words


Understanding the right-of-way laws in Iowa is important for all residents and visitors alike. Property owners along highways must also maintain clear visibility and accessibility within the right-of-way. Failure to do so can result in legal consequences and compromise public safety. Tom Fowler Law provides valuable resources and legal guidance for people navigating these complex issues.

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