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What Does Yielding the Right of Way Mean?

An intersection crash can occur when one driver fails to yield the right of way properly. In some cases, inexperienced drivers may not even be sure what it means to yield. 

In this guide, we’ll explore what yielding the right of way means and provide some general tips to yield on the roads.

Why Would I Need to Yield the Right of Way?

Not all roads in the United States have clearly marked intersections. When an intersection is unmarked, or the traffic lights go out, there are certain rules that drivers are expected to follow. 

On the roads, “yielding” means allowing another vehicle to proceed before you do. It places the responsibility on you as a driver to pay attention to your surroundings and watch for vehicles that may be permitted to move first or move differently.

Lack of knowledge of the right of way guidelines is not a legal defense and cannot get you out of having to pay for tickets and fines. With this in mind, it’s best to be aware of the times at which you’ll need to yield to other drivers or pedestrians.

General Rules for Right of Way

There are several common guidelines that you can use to determine right of way while you’re out on the roads. 

These include: 

  • Obey all posted signs and signals
  • First car in should be the first car out
  • Smaller vehicles should yield to larger ones
  • Dead-end roads yield to through roads
  • Frontage road drivers yield to freeway exits
  • Drivers yield to pedestrians

Let’s look at each scenario separately.

Obey All Posted Signs and Signals

The first tip is obvious. If there are posted signs or working traffic signals, always obey them. This is especially true when a sign includes a direction for your lane to “yield” or allow someone else to go first.

Unmarked Intersections

If you come to an unmarked intersection, yield the right of way to any vehicle that was there before you. Likewise, if you were there first, other vehicles are required to yield to you.

So what can you do when two vehicles arrive at the same time? When this happens, the vehicle on the left must yield to the one on the right.

Where Different Kinds of Roads Meet

When you’re driving on a small road that joins up with a larger one, particularly if it’s a single lane turning into a multi-lane road, the driver on the smaller road should yield to those on the larger road.

At “T” shaped intersections, the drivers turning onto the road yield to drivers who are already on the through road.

If you’re driving on a frontage road, you must always yield to cars that are exiting the freeway. This rule applies even if the exiting vehicles are crossing all lanes of the frontage road to reach the other side.

Always Yield to Pedestrians

Drivers must always yield to pedestrians who are in a crosswalk. Whether a pedestrian is in a crosswalk or not, however, vehicles should always yield to pedestrians. 

Failure to yield to pedestrians can cause serious injuries if your car strikes someone who is walking on the road.

Drive Defensively

This last tip may be the most important. Never assume that the other drivers at an intersection know the proper right of way rules. Even when you make eye contact with the other driver, there can be confusion or misunderstanding. Always use the utmost caution before moving forward. Failure to do so can lead to a car accident.

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