Ever since we moved here people warned us to beware of the Right Hand Rule. When approaching an unmarked intersection, you must yield right of way to the person on your right, regardless of how much your own street looks like the main thoroughfare. We never quite abided by our understanding of this rule, and it never seemed to come into play, my accident notwithstanding.
For two years this notion frustrated me. It makes no sense to disrupt the main flow of traffic along one street just because a side street feeds into it. Why make all the cars on the main road stop when a car approaches from a side street? I never yielded, and I never understood.
Recently another American, Tom Seely, explained the logic of the right hand rule to me, and now everything seems much clearer. Here’s the deal. Signs are expensive, so if you can avoid using them, it saves money. An unmarked four-way intersection therefore requires the right hand rule; the car to your right has right of way through this intersection or else you have a mess. In lieu of stop signs, this makes sense and saves money.
I was happy with this conclusion for a few days until I realized how few unmarked four-way intersections I traversed. Virtually none. On the other hand, I pass unmarked “T” intersections all the time, and the Right Hand Rule applies there, too. This rule went right back into my category of Things I Am Frustrated About. Why apply this rule to a “T” intersection; it only slows traffic down?
Compounding my frustration has been my observation that many “T” intersections are marked with a yield sign on the side road but with nothing on the main road. Isn’t this the second worst of all possible situations? Both roads are told to yield. (The worst would be if both roads have right of way.) The yellow diamond sign, which indicates that the road you are on has right of way, , should resolve this ambiguity, but it is rarely posted near the intersection in question, and it is hard to remember to take note of it until you are at an intersection where you need to decide who has right of way. Add to this the habit of most Hungarian men when they approach a yield-marked intersection to pull out anyway as though they had right of way, and it makes you feel like you are driving in one of those bumper car rides at an amusement park.
In searching for something that officially describes this rule I ran across this hilarious article that does a great job explaining what European driving conditions look like from an American perspective. Aside from some salty language, it is the best description I’ve read!