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Right of Way Rules: Which Vehicle Goes First?

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Knowing the right of way rules is not only imperative to following the law, but it will also help prevent you from getting into any related car accidents.

The failure to yield to the right of way is illegal, and the law was put in place to protect you and other motorists.

Below, we will go over all the instances you may need to know the right of way rules, including intersections and right of way and stop signs and right of way.

Right of Way Rules

To begin, let’s look at the law in its entirety.

Simply put, the right of way law states that every vehicle must yield to the vehicle who has the right of way.

Sounds easy enough, right?

What most people struggle with, though, is determining who has the right of way in various situations.

Whether you are currently studying Driver’s Ed or you just want a refresher on the rules of the road, here’s what you need to know about who has the right of way in multiple situations.

Who Has the Right of Way?

Examples of such instances where the other party has the right of way (and therefore you must yield) are as follows:

  • When you’re at a yield sign
  • When pedestrians are at a crosswalk
  • When a person is using a seeing-eye dog
  • When a person is using a white cane with or without a red tip
  • When you’re at an uncontrolled intersection where vehicles are already in the intersection
  • At “T” intersections where you must yield to vehicles on the through-road;
  • When you’re turning left, in which case you must yield to oncoming pedestrians, cars, etc.
  • When you’re driving on an unpaved road that intersects with a paved road
  • When you’re returning to the roadway after the car is parked

Determining who has the right of way can usually be common sense, but without keeping this rule in the forefront of your mind, it can be easy to forget while driving (especially if you’ve got cruise control locked in).

A good way to think about whether or not you have the right of way is to think if it would be safer for you to stop before continuing on a road.

If it seems like stopping is safest, you likely don’t have the right of way.

Again, this law was implemented in all states to increase road safety for all motorists and pedestrians.

Intersections: Right of Way

right of way rules

When it comes to intersections—any point when one road meets another—right of way rules get specific.

Some examples of intersections could include side streets, freeway entrances, cross streets, and roundabouts.

Because of the nature of intersections, your chances of a collision do increase (intersection crashes account for 35% of reported accidents), so it’s important that you proceed with caution in these situations and do your best to recall right of way rules.

Below are the intersection right of way rules you should know.

  • When you are approaching an intersection that does not have either a stop sign or yield sign, decrease your speed. You should be ready to stop if necessary.
    • Yield to cyclists, pedestrians, or other vehicles that may already be in the intersection
  • When you are making a right-hand turn, check for pedestrians that may be crossing the street before you proceed (even if you have a green light). You should also keep an eye out for cyclists on your right-hand side.
    • Yield to drivers going straight and wait for them to pass before you turn
  • When you are making a left-hand turn, always give the right of way to approaching vehicles that don’t have stop signs or yield signs—it’s their right to go first.
    • Yield to drivers going straight and wait for them to pass before you turn
    • Yield to pedestrians and cyclists who may be crossing the street
  • When approaching a roundabout, enter only when there is a gap in the traffic. You may need to stop before entering a roundabout. Be sure to keep an eye out for pedestrians in crosswalks as well.
    • Yield to all traffic already in the roundabout circle

Stop Signs: Right of Way

The right of way rules continue with stop signs.

Though stop signs might seem pretty simple—you just stop when you roll up to it, right?—there are still some courtesy rules that help the flow of traffic in these instances.

Below are the right of way rules you should know in terms of stop signs.

  • When you approach a four-way intersection with stop signs at the same time as another driver, you yield to the driver at the cross street on your right. Basically, the car on the left side yields to the one to the right in this situation.
    • If you reach the intersection at different times, the driver who arrived last must yield.
  • Most of the rules around stop sign right-of-way concern etiquette, so when in doubt, consider kindly waving the other driver to go first. Accidents usually happen when two drivers are aggressive and don’t acknowledge the others on the road.

The right of way rules might seem confusing at first, but once you get the hang of them, they become second nature.

Just remember to always drive cautiously and defensively and be courteous to other drivers, pedestrians, and cyclists—you will have a much safer life on the road if so!

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