Right of way rules are about courtesy as much as they are about decreasing accidents. While some cities have particular yielding rules, there are general road rules that drivers should be aware of no matter where they go. For instance, drivers are to yield the right of way of legally crossing pedestrians, always.  The penalties for hitting a pedestrian due to failure to yield are severe. They can earn you a revoked license, exorbitant traffic ticket fees and even life in prison.

Intersection Right of Way

Intersection right of way rules focus on yielding whenever necessary to avoid collisions with other vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists. A common concern, especially at intersections, is who has the right of way when making a left turn? Specifically, who has the right of way when turning left at an intersection with lights? At an intersection where one driver wants to make a left turn while a driver on the other side plans to right turn into the same lane, who should go first? Ideally, left turns yield to right turns. Generally the right of way at an intersection goes to straight oncoming traffic. Left turns should yield to both straight-through and right turning traffic. The only exception is usually a green arrow signal.

Uncontrolled Intersection Right of Way

In an uncontrolled intersection right of way situation there are no stop or yield signs or lights indicating appropriate driving procedure. You should use extreme caution if you find yourself at such an intersection. Make sure to come to a complete stop as you would at an intersection that does have road signs. Generally, who has the right of way at an intersection is the vehicle that was there before yours. Allow them to turn or pass before proceeding.

T-Intersection Right of Way

T-intersection right of way calls for the turning vehicles to yield to straight-moving traffic. This is the case unless there is a traffic light direction that movement.  The right of way rules do not apply to a T-intersection the way they do to a four-way intersection, however. At four-way intersections, vehicles turning left are meant yield to right turning vehicles. The right of way rules do not apply to the same situation at a t-intersection because the driver who is turning onto the main road must yield to traffic coming from left and right sides.  

Stop Sign Right of Way

Because stop signs only specify one driving direction, unlike traffic lights, many drivers are unsure of the stop sign right of way etiquette. Therefore, motorist often wonder, who has the right of way at a stop sign? Stop signs are most often located at four way and t-intersections but they follow the same procedures in regards to yielding: allow the cars that were on the road before you to pass.

Who has the right of way at a four way stop or similarly, who has the right of way at a two way stop? Four-way stops function just like four-way intersections controlled by traffic lights in that drivers turning left are to yield to straight and right turning traffic. Drivers turning right are to yield to straight coming traffic. At four way stops, drivers must also yield to those who were at the intersection first as well as to crossing pedestrians.

Another common question regarding intersections is: when two cars arrive at an intersection at the same time, which car has the right of way? Again, the driver making a left turn should yield to the one making a right turn whether there is a traffic light, stop sign or no sign present. Left turning drivers should simply wait and allow the right turning or straight driving vehicles to proceed before continuing past the stop sign. This is one of the many reasons why coming to a full stop at stop signs is essential.

Highway

Drivers both on the highway and merging onto it are expected to exercise road etiquette and allow for easy and safe merging. However, do you have the right of way when you enter a highway? Actually, vehicles already on the highway have the right of way and merging drivers should yield if highway traffic doesn’t allow for merging. It seems more intuitive to believe that traffic entering the highway should be allowed to merge onto the road, but just like on all other roadways vehicles that were on the road before you have the right of way.

Reasons to Follow Proper Right of Way Laws

To create a safe driving environment, it is necessary to follow right of way laws. Giving the right of way to others helps to avoid collisions and is a responsibility bestowed onto all drivers when they receive their licenses. A right of way violation can have consequences: from simply creating a traffic jam to a deadly collision. Often, tickets are handed out for right of way violations only after an accident occurs. Occasionally, officers do spot drivers who fail to yield appropriately before an accident occurs. These drivers incur driving points typically starting at two points and increase based on the severity of the incident. Determining who had the right of way in an accident helps police officials, judges and insurance companies figure out who is at fault.

Last updated on Tuesday, October 9 2018.

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