Maryland has a boulevard rule that applies in determining who is at fault in some traffic accidents. The boulevard rule applies to crashes that occur at intersections. The boulevard rule requires that a vehicle entering onto a main road from a smaller road, parking lot or alley, must yield to all traffic that is on the main road. It also requires the driver entering the main road or “boulevard” to wait until there is enough room to safely merge and get up to speed before entering the boulevard.
Under the boulevard rule, the driver on the main road is sometimes called the “favored” driver and the driver on the side road is referred to as the “unfavored” driver. The boulevard rule creates a presumption that in a motor vehicle crash that the unfavored driver was at fault and the favored driver was not at fault. The rule gives a preference to drivers already driving on a roadway over those entering or crossing the roadway. This makes it possible to drive on the highway without having to slow down for every intersection or entrance.
The favored driver has the right to assume that an unfavored driver will stop and yield the right of way. Thus, a favored driver is not required to stop or slow down at the intersection. In most circumstances, a favored driver’s speed or straddling of the center line will not be sufficient to be deemed the proximate cause of a crash, but in a few cases, it has been held for the jury to decide whether excessive speed was the cause of a crash.
For practical circumstances, the boulevard rule means that a driver who pulls out into traffic and is struck is presumed negligent. If the driver is hit by a vehicle on the boulevard, even if the boulevard-vehicle’s driver was speeding, the driver pulling out cannot recover. The purpose of the boulevard rule is to promote the free flow of traffic and ensure the safety of motorists. The boulevard rule, however, is not absolute. The boulevard rule will not provide a defense if the favored driver was driving unlawfully, and the unlawful behavior was the proximate cause of the accident.