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Who Has the Right of Way: Everything You Need to Know

The concept of the right of way is an important one to understand because the law never really grants it, although the law does require that the right of way be yielded to others. One can command the right of way by using the law, by requiring that others yield the right of way to you. Failure to yield the right of way causes crashes. Considering how important this is, it’s best to learn as much as you can about it. If this is something that you’re interested in, read on a brief breakdown of everything you need to know about how the right of way works out on the road.

How Do You Determine Who Has the Right of Way?

The law does not give the right of way to anyone or anything. You have the right to drive, bike, or walk as you please, but it is up to you to avoid a crash. Avoiding a crash means you must do everything possible to make sure that another driver, motorcyclist, moped rider, bicyclist, or pedestrian doesn’t hit you. Yielding the right of way means letting another driver pass you in a traffic situation. The “Yield to the Driver on the Right” rule controls most intersections when drivers arrive at an intersection simultaneously.

For example, you come to a stop sign at the same time as another driver at a cross street and he is on your right. You must yield to him because he arrived at the stop sign first. If you arrive at an uncontrolled intersection close to the same time, get to the intersection first is the driver who must yield the right of way. If you arrive at the intersection at the same time, the driver on the left must yield because of his position on the road. 

Pedestrians always have the right of way. Bicyclists, in most cases, are treated just like any other driver on the road. They are not always granted the right of way. When you are making a left turn at an intersection, you must yield to oncoming traffic. When you are merging into traffic, it is unsafe to attempt to merge if the driver behind you must slow down to let you into the lane. Of course, you must always yield the right of way to emergency and construction vehicles as well as school buses when they have either just stopped or are loading or unloading children.

If two vehicles meet on a narrow mountain road and only one car can pass at a time, then the one going downhill should pull over to give the other vehicle room to pass. Unless it’s more practical for the one that’s going up to find a wider part of the road or pull off onto a turnout.

Should You Insist on the Right of Way?

When on the road, never assume that the driver in front of you will complete a maneuver or even start one. Give up the right of way when it’s needed. An exception is when you must use it because of a law. Gaining eye contact with other drivers will increase safety on the road as well. The courteous and conscientious driver tries to increase safety on the road.


We hope this article proves to be useful when it comes to helping you understand how the right of way works. While it may seem straightforward, there are a slew of different things to consider when determining who has the right of way. Be sure to keep everything that you’ve learned here in mind so that you can make the most informed decisions out on the road.

If you need extra help learning the rules of the road, why not try out a ​​car driving school? At Midtown Driving School we have designed classes with the busy student in mind. We have a very flexible system of classes that allows students to take the classes in any order they wish and at their own pace.