Any time you encounter another vehicle, bicyclist or pedestrian on the road, one of you must yield the right of way in order to prevent an accident. Rather than depending on individuals to  randomly determine who should have priority, state laws establish who has the right to proceed first. Yet, according to the National Safety Council, approximately 14% of all fatal motor vehicle
crashes involve a driver’s failure to yield the right of way. Given this statistical evidence, it seems right of way laws are not clear to everyone.

Understanding the Laws
Vehicle codes are based on common sense principles and are set up to actually require someone to “yield” the right of way such as, “When approaching an intersection, yield the right of way to traffic already in the intersection.” or “The driver of a vehicle shall yield the right of way, slowing down or stopping if need be, to yield to a pedestrian crossing the roadway within a crosswalk.” While laws prescribe who has the right to proceed first, you cannot take the right of way by forcing someone to slow down and wait.

Precautions to Prevent
Right of way laws vary from state to state and you should familiarize yourself with the regulations in the states in which you operate, but here are a few general tips to help make everyone on the road a little safer:

■ When multiple drivers reach a four-way stop intersection, the first to stop should be the first to go.
■ At uncontrolled intersections, or where two or more drivers stop at STOP signs simultaneously and they are at right angles to one another, the driver on the left should yield to the driver on the right.
■ If drivers approaching from opposite directions reach an intersection at about the same time, the driver turning left should yield to approaching traffic going straight or turning right.
■ Drivers making a right turn at an intersection should yield to oncoming vehicles, as well as crossing pedestrians and bicyclists.
■ When entering a traffic circle or roundabout, drivers should yield to traffic already in the circle.
■ When entering the roadway from a driveway, alley, private road or parking lot, drivers should yield the right of way to traffic and pedestrians on the roadway.
■ When entering a freeway, drivers should yield the right of way to vehicles already traveling the freeway.
■ Drivers should yield to police cars, fire engines and ambulances making audible and visual signals.

Following a collision, establishing which driver had the right of way, as well as the proportional level of fault or negligence of each party, is not always clear. In other words, you can still be found legally liable or negligent, at least in part, for an accident even though you believe you had the right of way. The best strategy whenever the right of way is involved is to proceed carefully. At times,
you may be better off allowing the other motorist to have the right of way, even if it really belongs to you. When it comes to driving safely, it’s not the principle, but the outcome, that counts.

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