How to Determine Who Has Right of Way

How to Determine Who Has Right of Way

Although intersections are the most common places for accidents to occur, they’re just as likely to happen at roundabouts, crosswalks and even highways. Knowing the traffic rules as well as understanding who has right of way can and will save a life, regardless if it’s your own or someone else’s. It doesn’t matter if you’re an experienced driver as well, because with time, we sometimes forget vital pieces of information. This article is meant to teach/remind you of some of the most important traffic laws, such as determining who has right of way, so read on to find out how to determine who has right of way.

Right of Way: Pedestrians


If you encounter a crosswalk with people already crossing it or waiting to cross it, you have to yield to them. Instead of constantly scanning for crosswalks, always look for signs indicative of a crosswalk just ahead. That way you’ll avoid emergency braking. Likewise, if you see someone using a seeing eye dog or a white can, always let them through.

These can indicate that the pedestrian is deaf, blind, or sometimes even both. Bicycles are supposed to be treated as vehicles, but you should always give them sufficient room to navigate even when passing them.

Right of Way: Intersections


Obviously, if there’s a traffic light at the intersection, it will dictate the right of way. Red meaning stop and green go. A blinking red light indicates that you should treat the light as a stop sign, and a blinking yellow means you should proceed with caution. If you hear or see emergency vehicles you have to yield to them even if the traffic light is green for you.

If you see a “no right on red” sign, you must wait for the light to turn green before you can proceed. Otherwise, you are free to turn right on red only if there are no vehicles coming onto your lane from the parallel street. Note: in New York City, you are never allowed to turn right.

Right of Way: Elsewhere


If you’re at an uncontrolled intersection, you have to yield way to cars already in the intersection. This includes roundabouts. Generally, if no sign is present indicating who has the right of way, you should yield to the car on the right. If there is no car on the right but there is one on your left, he has to wait for you.

If you’re at joining a larger road at an intersection or a T-intersection, you have to yield way to oncoming traffic already on the road. Again, if there’s a traffic light, it will indicate when you should go. If not, wait for oncoming traffic to clear before proceeding with caution. If there are any pedestrians before the T-section, you have to yield to them as well.

Remember, the traffic light has the biggest priority in dictating the right of way. Following that, you have signs, and right at the bottom is the rule of free right-hand side. Keep these things in mind and you won’t have any issues.

Related articles