Understanding and obeying traffic laws are crucial to avoiding tickets and staying safe on the road. While there are many signs that make a variety of rules of the road clear and obvious, the concept of yielding the “right-of-way” can be more ambiguous.

First and foremost, yielding means slowing down or coming to a complete stop to allow other motorists (or pedestrians) to continue moving. You’re required to do this when others, by law, have the “right of way.” 

However, not every driver can easily recall what they learned in driver’s ed about who has the right of way when two roads meet and there are no stop signs, or if they come to a T-intersection. A refresher can help make sure you follow the rules. It can also remind you of why it is so important that you do so when you are driving.

Rules Related to The Right of Way

Every year, thousands of car accidents occur at intersections. This is true, even when those intersections have stop signs or traffic lights. These accidents lead to thousands of injuries and even deaths. 

What’s more, is that if drivers knew and obeyed traffic laws related to the right of way, many of these accidents could be avoided.

Some of the most common right of way rules people often overlook include:

  • Obeying the signs and signals at intersections. Unfortunately, many drivers roll through stop signs and try to rush through a yellow light before it turns red. Simply obeying posted signs would reduce traffic accidents significantly.
  • Cars that enter an intersection first have the right of way ahead of cars that arrive after them. Remembering this rule is helpful when coming to an intersection that doesn’t have any signage.
  • If two cars approach an intersection simultaneously, the car on the right has the right of way. 
  • Drivers must yield to pedestrians who are crossing a designated crosswalk. 
  • If approaching a roundabout, remember that the vehicle or vehicles that are already in the roundabout have the right of way ahead of vehicles entering the roundabout.

In addition to familiarizing yourself with the above traffic laws, because the rules of the road can vary from state to state, it might be a good idea to spend some time looking at the laws specific to your state. 

In California, the California Driver Handbook can be an invaluable resource.

Why Understanding Who Has the Right of Way is Important

There are three main reasons why it is important each and every driver understands all pertinent laws related to who has the right of way. 

We have already addressed the first one. Understanding and obeying laws related to the right of way can keep everyone on the road safer and minimize the number of accidents and deaths that occur at intersections.

But there are at least two other reasons why understanding who has the right of way is vital. 

First, obeying laws related to the right of way can keep you from getting unwanted traffic tickets. 

One more reason you should understand and obey the right of way is because it will limit your liability should an accident still occur. If, for example, you fail to yield to another vehicle that has the right of way for one reason or another and an accident ensues, you could be held liable for damages suffered by the other driver.

What to do if You Are in a “Right of Way” Accident

If you have been in an accident at an intersection or in some way related to the right of way, there are several things you should do. Obviously, the first thing is to seek medical attention if necessary. 

You should also be advised that anything you say at the scene of the accident might be used against you later on either by the other party or by your insurance company. That is why it is crucial you do not admit fault. Instead, simply explain what happened.

Finally, if you were injured or suffered damages as the result of someone else failing to yield the right of way when they should have, you should hire a qualified personal injury lawyer who can investigate your case and maximize the compensation you are due to help pay for the damages you suffered.