Last Updated: 4/27/2023

Like many states, Iowa follows what are called the rules of the road which are stated in detail in Iowa Code Chapter 321- Motor Vehicles and Law of the Road.  These include things like who has the duty to yield at an uncontrolled intersection, whose responsibility is it for striking a disabled car on the side of the roadway, when do you have the duty to yield to pedestrians, and much, much more.  We will try to cover some of the most common things that are used to prove fault in an Iowa car accident. 

Before doing so, please keep in mind that Iowa is a comparative fault state meaning that the fault of the drivers involved in the car accident are compared to each other.  For example, let’s say there are two drivers involved in a car crash.  One driver is speeding, and the other driver fails to yield.  The fault of each driver will be determined by the finder of fact (a judge or a jury) and a percentage placed upon the fault of that driver.  If the drive is found to be 51% or more at fault, then they are not allowed to recover any of their damages.  If the driver is found to be 50% or less at fault, then the amount of damages that they can recover are reduced by their percentage of fault.  For example, if a driver sustains $100,000 in damages, but is found to be 25% at fault then the other driver will only be ordered to pay $75,000 (100,000 minus 25% X 100,000 = 75,000).

What are some common ways that fault can be proven in a car accident in Iowa?

1. Failure to stop within an assured distance, failure to maintain control and/or following too closely. 

One or more of these law violations are often used when a person rear-ends the vehicle in front of them.  Whether they were not paying attention to traffic stopping or did not see the car in front of them, this is a common type of car accident.  Here are some specific violations of Iowa car accident laws.

Assured Clear Distance Ahead. 

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.

Failure to Maintain Control Of Vehicle. 

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.

Following too closely

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. 

2. Failing to yield. 

This can involve several different car accidents including uncontrolled intersections where you have a duty to yield to the vehicle on your right, vehicles pulling in front of oncoming traffic, collisions that occur while passing, and a host of other car accidents.  Here are some of the specific requirements under Iowa law for yielding to other vehicles and pedestrians:

Meeting and Turning to the right

Vehicles meeting each other on any road shall yield one-half of the road by turning to the right.  (This is a common violation when there is a head-on collision on a road.)  

Approaching Or Entering Intersection. 

When two vehicles enter an intersection at approximately the same time so that if both proceed without regard to the other a collision is reasonably to be expected, the vehicle on the left shall yield the right-of-way to the vehicle on the right.  (This is the classic uncontrolled intersection example, but also can apply to other intersections without traffic control devices as well)

Backing Onto a Highway

No person shall drive a vehicle on a highway in reverse unless it can be done with reasonable safety.  The driver shall yield the right of way to any approaching vehicle on the highway or intersecting highway which is close enough to constitute an immediate danger.

Slow Moving Vehicles

Any vehicle going at less than the normal speed of traffic at the time and place and under the existing conditions shall be driven in the right-hand lane, if available, or as close as possible to the right-hand curb or edge of the road, except when overtaking and passing another vehicle going in the same direction, or when preparing for a left turn at an intersection, an alley, private road or driveway.

Driving on Right Half of Road

Exceptions- A vehicle shall be driven on the right half of the road on all roads of sufficient width, except as follows:

    1.  When overtaking and passing another vehicle going in the same direction under the rules governing such movement.

    2.  When an obstruction makes it necessary to drive to the left of the center of the road.  Any person doing so shall yield the right-of-way to all vehicles traveling in the opposite direction upon the open portion of the road within a distance which is an immediate danger.

    3.  On a road divided into three marked lanes for traffic under the rules which apply.

    4.  On a road restricted to one-way traffic.

Entering Through Highways

The driver of a vehicle shall stop or yield at the entrance to a through highway and shall yield the right-of-way to other vehicles which have entered the intersection from the through highway or which are approaching so closely on the through highway that they are a danger.  Then the driver, having yielded, may proceed to cautiously and carefully enter the through highway.

 3. Failing to obey a traffic control device

This is most common when a driver fails to stop at a stop sign or for a red light and ends up striking another vehicle.  These laws can be very specific, so they cover a number of situations.  The following applies to stoplights. 

When signals display different colored lights:

    1. Vehicles facing a signal displaying a green light may go straight, turn right or turn left through the intersection unless specifically prohibited.  However, vehicles shall yield the right-of-way to other vehicular and pedestrian traffic lawfully within the intersection at the time the signal is exhibited.

    2. Vehicles facing a signal displaying a circular yellow or yellow arrow light are warned that the related green movement is stopped and vehicles should no longer proceed into the intersection and shall stop.  If the stop cannot be made safely, the vehicle may go cautiously through the intersection.

    3. Vehicles facing a signal displaying a circular red light shall stop and remain stopped [until an indication to proceed by the signal is shown] [the signal is green].  However, unless prohibited by a sign, vehicles may cautiously enter the intersection to make a right turn from the right lane of traffic, or a left turn from the left lane of a one-way street to the left-most lane of traffic on a one-way street.  Any turn shall be made so that it does not interfere with other vehicles or pedestrians lawfully using the intersection.

    4. Vehicles facing a signal displaying a green arrow light alone or with another official control signal may cautiously enter the intersection and go in the direction indicated by the arrow, but shall yield the right-of-way to other vehicles and pedestrians lawfully within the intersection.  Stopping means stopping at the first opportunity at either the clearly marked stop line or before entering the cross-walk or before entering the intersection.

Making A Left Turn Across Traffic

The driver of a vehicle intending [to turn left within an intersection] [into an alley] [private road] [driveway] shall yield the right-of-way to all vehicles approaching from the opposite direction which are at the intersection or so close to the intersection as to be an immediate danger.  Then the driver, having yielded and having given the required signal, may make the left turn.

There are hundreds of different ways that car accidents happen in Iowa each year and above is just a small part of the laws and rules that determine fault in an Iowa car accident.  If you or a loved one have been in a car accident in Iowa and would like more information about Iowa laws then before you make a mistake talking to the insurance adjuster or hiring an attorney, you should request a copy of our Iowa Car Accident book.  We offer the book at no cost or obligation because we have seen far too many hardworking Iowans make a costly mistake that they could have avoided.  Our book exposes 7 Secretes to Not Wreck Your Iowa Car Accident case, how to find a qualified personal injury attorney for your case, and much more.

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Corey Walker
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With over 28 years legal experience, Corey has been recognized for his work as an injury attorney.