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How Understanding Right of Way Laws Can Help Prevent Car Accidents

Following the rules of the road at all times will decrease your chances of being involved in a car accident.

One of the best ways to avoid a car accident is following traffic laws at all times. This will keep your speed down and decrease the chances of you getting in a risky situation. The problem with this philosophy is that sometimes laws are harder to understand. An example of this is right of way laws, which can be complicated depending on the situation you are in.

right of way car accident

Traffic Lights

When an intersection has a light, determining who has the right of way is usually easy. This is because drivers with a green light are allowed to go, and drivers with a red light are not. The only areas of potential confusion are left turns and when a traffic light malfunctions. For left turns, the car that is going straight always has the right of way, while the turning vehicle must wait. In the case of a malfunctioning street light, the intersection acts as a four-way stop. The best practices for this situation are detailed in the next section.

4 Way Stop Signs

The rule of thumb is that whichever car arrives at the intersection first has the right of way. The best way to keep track of this is to take stock of the intersection as you start to slow down. When you are entirely stopped, you should let every car that was already there go before you do. If two drivers pull up at the exact same time, your best bet is communicating with the other person through hand signals and deciding who should go first.


This one is straightforward. If you pull out of a driveway into a street, you do not have the right of way. When doing so, make sure to check all of your mirrors and physically turn around before starting to pull out. As you do, keep looking for cars coming down the road. If you see one, stop pulling out until they pass.


People walking on the sidewalk follow many of the same rules as drivers. Sometimes they have the right of way and sometimes they don’t. No matter what, though, if a pedestrian walks in front of your car, you must always yield to avoid causing injury.


There are two types of cars that are allowed to break the typical rules of the road: Emergency vehicles with their sirens on and funeral processions. If you come across one of them, you should always yield.

If you are ever pulled over for a right of way violation, claiming that you did not understand the law will not suffice as a defense. Instead, you will likely receive a citation. Even worse, your misunderstanding of the law could result in a collision. Your best bet for avoiding both of these scenarios is reviewing right of way laws and following them every time you’re on the road.

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Updated: October 11, 2018