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Driver’s failure to yield on entering roundabout justified traffic stop

State v. Nicholas C. Wegner, 2017AP2236-CR, District 2, 10/23/18 (not recommended for publication); case activity (including briefs)

A police officer testified he was proceeding through a traffic roundabout when Wegner, ignoring the yield signs posted for vehicles entering the roundabout, entered directly in front of the officer and caused the officer to have to brake to avoid hitting Wegner. (¶4). This conduct justified the officer’s stop of Wegner.

Wegner claimed that under § 346.18(1), the general rule governing intersections, the officer had forfeited his right-of-way because he was travelling too fast—namely, 18 to 20 m.p.h., thought the roundabout was posted with a limit of 15 m.p.h. (¶¶5-6, 10). The court finds lots of ways to run rings around this claim.

The clearest basis for rejecting Wegner’s claim is that there were yield signs posted for traffic entering the roundabout. The general rule in § 346.18(1) expressly yields to other provisions in the statute, and sub. (6) says the operator of a vehicle approaching an intersection with a yield sign “shall yield the right-of-way to other vehicles which have entered the intersection from the intersecting highway or which are approaching so closely on the intersecting highway as to constitute a hazard of collision and, if necessary, shall reduce speed or stop in order to so yield.” Wegner’s clear violation of this rule was enough to justify the stop. (¶18).

Nonetheless, we’ll list the other reasons the court cites, if only because the proliferation of roundabouts means issues about the rules governing them are likely to crop up more frequently:

  • First, the court says a roundabout doesn’t function as a standard intersection, since traffic from the left has the right of way rather than an obligation to yield, as under § 346.18(1). (¶12).
  • Second, even if § 346.18(1) governs roundabouts, it applies only when two vehicles approach or enter the intersection at the same time; here the officer was clearly already in the intersection and therefore had the right of way, even if his speed was excessive. (¶13).
  • Third, the officer wasn’t speeding. The signs listing a speed limit for the roundabout were “merely advisory” because they are not “R2-1” signs–rectangular, black and white in color, with the word “speed limit” followed by a numeral—but instead were “W13-1P” signs, consisting of a black legend and border with a yellow background. And the officer wasn’t driving at an unreasonable or imprudent speed in violation of § 346.57(2), so he didn’t forfeit his right-of-way. (¶14).
  • Fourth, the court says a roundabout is essentially an uncontrolled “T” intersection governed by § 346.18(3m), under which the operator of a vehicle approaching an intersection on a highway that terminates at the intersection must yield the right-of-way to any vehicle approaching the intersection on a highway that continues through the intersection. The court analogizes the vehicles already in the roundabout as on the road “continuing” through the intersection, but the analogy (as the court acknowledges) is not perfect. (¶¶16-17).(And indeed it isn’t a good analogy, since every highway intersecting the roundabout is arguably a highway that continues through the intersection rather than one ending at the roundabout in a “T”.)

Appellate practice note: The squad car video played at the suppression hearing didn’t make it into the record, despite Wegner’s attempts to add it after the record was filed. A disc purporting to contain a recording of the video was filed after the court granted his motion to supplement, but the court reviewed it and concluded “it does not appear to contain the camera footage introduced at the suppression hearing. …. Although the disc contains a large number of files, the only playable video file appears to be footage from the dashboard camera of a second squad car to arrive at the scene. There does not appear to be a recording of deputy Coleman’s initial encounter with Wegner.” (¶4 n.3). (Coleman was the officer who initiated the stop.) Either some disc other than the one marked as an exhibit was sent to the court of appeals, or the right disc was sent but Wegner’s briefing didn’t describe how to view the relevant footage. The result:

To the extent the footage is not included on the disc, we observe it was Wegner’s responsibility to ensure a complete appellate record and any missing material will be assumed to support the circuit court’s determination. See Fiumefreddo v. McLean, 174 Wis. 2d 10, 26-27, 496 N.W.2d 226 (Ct. App. 1993). If the footage is somewhere available to us in the appellate record, Wegner’s record citations are insufficient to allow us to locate and review it. See Roy v. St. Lukes Med. Ctr., 2007 WI App 218, ¶10 n.1, 305 Wis. 2d 658, 741 N.W.2d 256 (“We have no duty to scour the record to review arguments unaccompanied by adequate record citation.”). We therefore reject his arguments concerning the circuit court’s allegedly erroneous factual findings, all of which arguments are based upon Wegner’s request that this court view the footage from Coleman’s squad car. (¶4 n.3).

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