What Does Yielding the Right of Way Mean?

When you think of yielding the right-of-way, you might think of the traditional conundrum at a controlled intersection. Which car moves through the intersection first after everyone has come to a stop? 

Yielding the right-of-way is an important traffic concept that all drivers should understand. It does not only apply at controlled intersections but can apply in a range of driving scenarios. 

Why Do Drivers Need to Know What Yielding the Right of Way Means?

If a driver fails to yield the right-of-way, they may be involved in a car accident. The severity of the car crash, and the injuries sustained, depends on the situation. 

Rollover Risk

Imagine one driver has stopped at an intersection. They have looked both ways and are beginning to move forward when a second driver hits them in the intersection. The second driver, moving at speed, can cause a vehicle rollover accident

Even vehicles we traditionally see as sturdy, like trucks, vans, and SUVs, are susceptible to rollover. Their center of gravity is higher and they are top-heavy. This is because they are tall and narrow. 

All vehicle types can rollover. Rollovers are more likely to occur:

  • At higher driving speeds 
  • When alcohol is involved
  • On rural roads

Single-vehicle rollovers are also a risk, accounting for nearly 85% of rollover fatalities

Criminal Penalties

Yielding the right-of-way is not just a concept. It is part of the framework of traffic safety rules. Even at an intersection with no signals, yield signs, or stop signs, a driver can be ticketed for failing to yield the right of way. 

If alcohol is involved, perhaps after a driver has left a bar or nightclub serving drinks, the driver may be cited for driving under the influence or driving while intoxicated. In these cases, the alcohol-serving establishment might also share liability for accidents under Texas’ dram shop liability laws.

No driver wants to be ticketed or be the cause of another person’s wrongful death

What Does Yielding the Right of Way Mean? 

Most drivers know to yield how to decide whether to yield when approaching an intersection. But what about less common situations? Consider the following guidelines in determining which car has the right-of-way when driving.

Visual Signals

A visual signal could be a traffic light, stop sign, or yield sign. When a visual signal exists, always obey the signal. 

Failure to obey the signal, even if you cannot see an oncoming vehicle, may result in injury. For example, many railroad accidents occur when drivers attempt to do an end-run around the crossing arm. 

For intersections without a signal, always yield to any cars already in the intersection. Also, yield to vehicles close enough to the intersection such that it would be a danger for another vehicle to begin to traverse the intersection. 

Intersections of Busy Roads

Not all intersections have signals and many are not simple 4-way-stop intersections. When a driver at an intersection must merge into lanes of travel, it is important to understand how and when to yield the right-of-way. 

Some intersections include more than one multiple-lane road, like one-lane, two-lane, or a lane that intersects with a bigger road. At these intersections, drivers on the smaller road must yield to those on the larger road. 

At a T-section, where one road meets a dead-end at its junction with a two-lane road, the driver on the dead-end road must yield to all cross-traffic traveling along the road. Properly yielding the right-of-way at T-sections can help avoid speeding accidents with drivers on the main road. 

Highway Exit Ramps

Cars coming off a highway exit ramp have the right-of-way. Drivers on access roads must yield the right-of-way to cars on the highway exit ramp. 

This is true even if the traffic exiting the highway will merge into a separate lane. Actually, it is even more important not to violate the right-of-way in this situation, especially to avoid motorcycle accidents. A motorcycle exiting the highway may be more difficult to see and failure to yield the right-of-way can cause catastrophic injuries to a motorcyclist. 

Pedestrians

It may seem like common sense, but in most situations, pedestrians have the right-of-way. 

To avoid being at fault for a pedestrian accident, make sure to yield: 

  • To pedestrians in a crosswalk
  • To pedestrians in a parking lot
  • To all persons using a seeing-eye guide dog
  • To all persons walking with a white cane

When in doubt, it is always safest to yield to a pedestrian. Even jaywalkers! 

What if Another Driver Fails to Yield the Right of Way?

It would be nice if we could count on other drivers to follow all of the traffic rules. Unfortunately, we cannot. 

Just because you see another driver make eye contact with you or they give a friendly wave at the stop sign does not mean that they will yield the right-of-way. It is essential to exercise caution at all times when driving. Like failing to yield the right-of-way, distracted driving can also cause accidents.