What Exactly Is the Right-of-Way?
The term “right-of-way” is used to describe the right to go first in a specific area. The law doesn’t expressly grant the right-of-way to anyone; instead, right-of-way rules tell motorists how to decide which of them goes first. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the basic rules are as follows:
- The first vehicle to arrive at an intersection gets to go first.
- When two vehicles arrive at an intersection at the same time, the vehicle on the right gets to go first (it has the right-of-way).
- If neither of the above two rules apply, traffic that is going straight through an intersection has the right-of-way over traffic that is turning left.
Remember to stick to these rules, or you could find yourself with some right-of-way traffic tickets!
Who Has the Right-of-Way?
You should never insist on taking the right-of-way. When in doubt, let other cars go before you. It’s always better to err on the side of caution and ensure your own safety, as well as the safety of others. You may technically have the right to go, but if another driver commits a right-of-way traffic violation and starts to move forward, you should wait. It’s simply not worth it to drive aggressively and possibly cause an accident.
By the same token, you should not allow every other driver in the intersection to go before you. You may think that you are being polite, but in reality, you are clogging the intersection and confusing other motorists who are waiting for you to take your turn.
An important aspect of adhering to right-of-way rules is following posted signs, such as yield signs. There won’t always be a yield sign at the intersection, but it’s a rule that should be followed at every intersection you encounter. When there is a stop sign, you must come to a complete stop before proceeding, even if there are no other cars present.
Common Right-of-Way Situations
Not all intersections are the same, which means that there are variations on right-of-way rules. If, for instance, you find yourself at an intersection with stop signs on either side, but no signal control for cross traffic, you must stop and wait for all cross traffic to go before you may drive. Similarly, at T-intersections, vehicles that are on the through road have the right-of-way over those vehicles that must turn.
You may think these rules are unnecessary, but the truth is following right-of-way rules can save you time, money, and even your life. Failure to yield the right-of-way just spells trouble, even if you don’t end up with a citation. You could end up causing a car accident that could easily have been avoided. So be alert, come to a complete stop at the intersection if there is a stop sign or signal, and remember the right-of-way rules. You (and other drivers) will be glad you did.