The Boulevard Rule

Some U.S. States have boulevard rules, or specific statutes regarding the right of way at public roadway intersections. Maryland is one of them. Maryland’s so-called Boulevard Rule originates in Maryland’s Code 21-403, which states the following:

§ 21 403. Right of way; vehicle entering intersection

(a) Preferential right of way at an intersection may be indicated by stop signs or yield signs placed in accordance with the Maryland Vehicle Law.

(b) If the driver of a vehicle approaches a through highway, the driver shall:

(1) Stop at the entrance to the through highway; and

(2) Yield the right of way to any other vehicle approaching on the through highway.

In lay-person’s language, this means that the driver of a vehicle entering a highway from a secondary, smaller roadway must stop and yield the right of way to traffic traveling on that highway whether or not there are any traffic controls at the intersection in question. Any driver on the highway is a “favored driver” with the right-of-way to proceed through the intersection without stopping, and is only required to proceed so with a reasonable standard of care. The driver on the secondary roadway is a “non-favored driver” and has a duty to stop and yield to the other. If an accident occurs in such an intersection where a highway meets a secondary road, the non-favored driver will be found negligent as a matter of law. (more below ...)

The main defense for the non-favored driver will be to find some contribution of negligence on the favored driver. Maryland is a contributory negligence state, meaning that if a driver’s negligent actions are found to contribute to an accident, he or she is barred from recovering damages from the other driver regardless of the degree of contribution. An action such as excessive speed on the part of the favored driver is not enough to indicate contributory negligence; the excessive speed must be shown to be the proximate cause of the accident (that but for it the accident would not have happened). That is usually very difficult for the non-favored driver to prove since no matter how fast the favored driver was traveling, the accident still would not have happened if the non-favored had not pulled into the intersection.

The favored driver’s possible contributory negligence more often has an affect on the case when there is a passenger in either vehicle who has suffered a personal injury. The passenger may then make a personal injury claim against both the favored and the non-favored driver. The injured passenger need only show that each driver contributed in some way to the accident in order to pursue a claim against them.

The District of Columbia does not have a specific code to establish a Boulevard Rule. However, DC tort liability findings are usually based on the same principles as Maryland.

This article is written for informational purposes and is not intended to take the place of competent local legal counsel.

Related Links regarding liability rules and issues:

Assumed Risk explained.

Comparative Negligence explained.

Contributory Negligence explained.

The Intentional Act Exclusion explained.

Joint and Several Liability explained.

The Last Clear Chance Rule explained.

Mitigation of Damages explained.

Negligent Entrustment explained.

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