Driving with your mind wide open from BlueStormAuto


Right of Way

(Listed in priority order. Rules higher on the list trump those below.)


Philosophy - Having the right-of-way is a qualified privilege. In legal-speak the right-of-way cannot be used like a suit of armor. A driver with the right-of-way must make every effort to avoid a crash.


Pedestrians always have the right of way.


An emergency situation may trump right-of-way.  If you have a last clear chance to avoid an accident you must take that action. However in most cases you can –and should—follow right-of-way guidelines even in an emergency.


On a street with parked cars on one side, motorists on the side with no parked cars have the right of way.

o   If the parked cars on your side, you must safely yield.

o   If there is room for both cars to pass, it’s courteous to allow it, but not required.

o   If it’s uncertain whether two cars can pass, the car traveling on the side with the parked cars must yield (stop or move into a gap in the parked cars) to let cars traveling on the side with no parked cars pass.


Where an on-ramp meets a highway, motorists on the highway have the right of way.

o   Trucks and other vehicles on the highway have no obligation to yield to traffic blending into the highway. Their job is to maintain a constant speed so traffic entering the highway can safely calculate if and where it’s safe to enter the flow of traffic.


o   Drivers on the on-ramp must determine if it’s safe to enter the highway and adjust their speed accordingly. Cars on the on-ramp have a gas pedal and a brake pedal and it’s their job to plan and calculate. If it’s not safe to enter then you must stop on the ramp. Nobody has the right to blaze down an on-ramp and expect traffic to make way.


o    If there is no traffic in the adjacent lane a driver on the highway may elect to signal into the faster lane as a courtesy to merging traffic, but there is no obligation to do so. However you ALWAYS have an obligation NOT to obstruct the flow of traffic in faster lanes.


o   If everyone does their job, vehicles in slower lanes never impede traffic in faster lanes to “make room” for oncoming merge traffic. Whether this action is selfish convenience or a misguided notion of courtesy it creates chaos:



§  Drivers who wrongly yielded their right-of-way must adjust and return to the slow lanes. It’s especially dangerous and unproductive for a truck to yield the slow lane then almost immediately need to negotiate its way back into that lane. If safest for trucks to continue in the slow lane without adjusting their speed.


§  Merging traffic may end up passing on the right,



§  Faster drivers may be forced to slow then return to their comfortable speed, etc. over the next mile or more down the road.


Where on-ramp and off-ramp traffic flows cross, vehicles leaving the highway have the Right-of-Way. Vehicles entering the highway must yield.


At a four-way stop, whoever stopped first has the right-of-way. If you get to the intersection at the same time as other vehicles, the driver on the left must yield to the driver on the right. The best way to maintain flow at a 4-way stop is what I call “Stop, and Go.” In the small town where I grew up each driver approaching a 4-way intersection noted who stopped first and waited their turn. If there was any question, one motorist would wave another one through. When I first moved to Pittsburgh, I found myself driving daily through areas with constant flow through 4-way intersections and my small-town ways were causing confusion and gumming up the works for the local drivers. At first I thought the city drivers were rude and aggressive, charging through these 4-ways with metropolitan bravado. Soon I realized that the city dwellers had naturally developed a different, more effective and elegant method of predictably moving traffic through a 4-way intersection:  “Stop, and Go.” With “Stop, and Go,” no one is burdened by their reckoning of who stopped before whom. Everyone makes a legal stop, then immediately takes their right-of-way. Simply and effectively flow through the intersection increases drastically. If a car turns across your path you may delay a second or two but as long as everyone signals it works beautifully. In reality this method works at all 4-way intersections, but do signal and do follow local laws and norms.


At a two-way stop, traffic on the through-road has the right-of-way (obviously) then, when there is an opening in through-traffic, cars turning left must yield to cars going straight across the through-road. Surprised? Look it up. In most states if the car across from you is going straight and you are turning left, you must yield, and if there are five cars behind him all going straight, you yield to all of them until either a car facing you is turning left also (in which can you can both proceed turning in front of each other) or no cars oppose you.


Copyright 2012 Blue Storm Auto, LLC.


Disclaimer:  Content herein is opinion only. Publisher cannot be held responsible for predicting every driving situation. Prevailing laws always take precedence. Every driver is responsible for making their decisions based on a given situation.