Steering clear of failure to yield accidents

How many times do you find yourself in a mefirst situation—too bullheaded to give up the road? What about your staff? Right-of-way is possibly one of the most misunderstood of all driving statutes. It simply refers to a driver's right to cross an intersection ahead of another vehicle.

Markel sees many of these motor vehicle accidents every year because a driver failed to give another driver the courtesy of the road. Oftentimes the failure to yield results in motor vehicle side impact collisions, car-pedestrian accidents, car-motorcycle or car-bicycle accidents. This rule was established to determine the preference between two motor vehicles, a motor vehicle and pedestrian or motor vehicle and bicyclist of which has the right to passage as they meet at the same place and time. Without right of way rules, driving would be a mass of confusion, with drivers always trying to beat each other through an intersection. Right of way rules are designed for everyone’s safety.

What are some of the precautions you can take to prevent right of way accidents? A relatively simple solution is to yield the right of way in every situation, whether or not it is required by law. To be more specific, if there is any doubt about there being enough room to pass on a narrow stretch of roadway, let the other vehicle go first. When entering a highway, yield the right of way to vehicles already traveling on the highway. Those vehicles should not have to alter their speed or swerve to make room for your approach. Don't jump the gun at a four way stop. The first to come to a complete stop should be given the right of way.

Since failure to yield the right of way is one of the most frequent violations in fatal accidents, a defensive driver should be thoroughly familiar with right of way rules. Knowing when you do have the right of way is not as important as knowing when you don't. By following the basic rule that it is the responsibility of every driver to do everything possible to protect other drivers and pedestrians, we will greatly reduce the possibility of an accident.

Here a few of the basic rules that help to identify which vehicle has the right-of-way when meeting on the road:

  • A vehicle that is already at or arrives before your car
  • Oncoming vehicles in the opposite traffic lane when the other vehicle is making a left turn
  • The car or truck on your right at an intersection in occasions when both arrive at the same time
  • Vehicles already traveling on a public highway when a car or truck is entering from a driveway or private road
  • Vehicles already driving on a limited access highway or interstate when another vehicle is about to enter via an entrance or acceleration ramp
  • The vehicle on your right at a four-way intersection controlled by stop signs
  • Pedestrians, cyclists and other motor vehicles that are still in the intersection
  • Cars or trucks traveling on the through portion of a highway when another vehicle is making a left or right turn at a “T” intersection
  • Any other vehicle approaching or in an intersection when a yield sign is facing the other car or truck

The following are situations which drivers are required to yield the right of way:

  • Stop signs – When one stop sign is involved, the car with the stop sign must come to a complete stop and wait for safe entry into the roadway where those vehicles have the right of way. If the driver disregards the stop sign or enters the lane of travel without care, he/she has done so without yielding the right of way.
  • T-intersections –Some of the t-intersections have stop signs and some do not. Regardless, vehicles on the continuing street have the right of way and the vehicles on the terminating street must yield.
  • Three-way or Four-way stop sign – When two or more vehicles are stopped at a three or four-way stop sign, the car that arrived at the stop sign first has the right of way. If two cars arrived at the same time, the vehicle on the right has the right of way.
  • Left turns – Vehicles that are making left turns must always yield the right of way to oncoming traffic. In most states when a driver is making a left turn, crossing the path of the right of way traffic, and an accident results, there is a presumption that the car making the left turn is at fault.
  • Driveways – Cars exiting from driveways must yield the right of way to any traffic, such as cars, pedestrians or bicycles that are already traveling on the street or sidewalk. The driver exiting from a driveway must use reasonable care by stopping first before he reaches the sidewalk or roadway to check for oncoming traffic and pedestrians.
  • Crosswalks – Drivers should always pay particular attention to crosswalks and yield the right of way to pedestrians, even if the “Don’t Walk” sign is flashing. Drivers making a right turn on red or making a right turn on a green light should be particularly aware of pedestrians in the crosswalk before turning.
  • Right turn on red – A driver making a right turn on a red light must yield the right of way to oncoming vehicle traffic and pedestrians in the crosswalk. A vehicle should always stop prior to the crosswalk and wait until there are no oncoming vehicles or pedestrians then proceed to complete the turn.

Situations that can turn dangerous when right-of-way rules aren’t followed can include cases where a driver is trying to execute a U-turn or passing other traffic on a two-way street. Whether legal or illegal, any U-turn situation can be extremely dangerous given the right conditions. If a driver wishes to make a legal U-turn, he or she should verify that a U-turn is allowed at that point prior to making the attempt. The driver should switch on his left-hand turn signal, stop and yield to oncoming traffic. Once the way is clear, the turn should be made so that the vehicle ends up in the outermost right-hand travel lane of the roadway.

When attempting to pass another vehicle in a permitted passing zone, it is important to remember the following points:

  • Be very careful to correctly estimate the time and space needed to safely pass the vehicle in front without interfering with any other vehicles in the vicinity
  • Operate your turn signal before passing so that the drivers in the area will better understand your intentions
  • Allow for an adequate amount of space to pass the vehicle at a safe distance
  • Make certain that you can see both headlamps of the vehicle being passed in your rearview mirror before moving back into the original travel lane

Drivers who tend to violate the right-of-way rules often commit one or more errors, either through negligence or lack of knowledge. Unfortunately, the results are very often tragic, especially on densely traveled or high-speed roads.

For safety’s sake, never attempt a passing maneuver under the following circumstances:

  • In a “no-passing” zone
  • When a solid yellow line is on your side of the center of the roadway
  • When a double solid yellow line is present
  • If passing will impede with safe operation of an approaching vehicle(s)
  • On the approach to a hilltop or in a curve when there is an insufficiently clear view ahead
  • Within 100 feet of an intersection or railroad grade crossing
  • Anytime the view is obstructed when approaching within 100 feet of any tunnel, bridge or elevated roadway
  • On the left or right shoulder of a roadway

Remember, right-of-way accidents don't just happen. Many are caused by drivers who violate the rules of the road. Obey these rules, drive safely and whenever in doubt, yield the right of way.



This document is intended for general information purposes only, and should not be construed as advice or opinions on any specific facts or circumstances. The content of this document is made available on an “as is” basis, without warranty of any kind. This document can’t be assumed to contain every acceptable safety and compliance procedures or that additional procedures might not be appropriate under the circumstances. Markel does not guarantee that this information is or can be relied on for compliance with any law or regulation, assurance against preventable losses, or freedom from legal liability. This publication is not intended to be legal, underwriting, or any other type of professional advice. Persons requiring advice should consult an independent adviser. Markel does not guarantee any particular outcome and makes no commitment to update any information herein, or remove any items that are no longer accurate or complete. Furthermore, Markel does not assume any liability to any person or organization for loss or damage caused by or resulting from any reliance placed on that content.

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