Right of way laws govern which driver has the lawful authority to make a traffic-related movement. This may include entering a roadway, changing lanes, driving through an intersection, or making a turn.
Each state has its own traffic regulations that dictate right-of-way actions. In Georgia, we have laws not only for drivers, but also for bicyclists and pedestrians.
Knowing these laws can help you navigate traffic flows successfully. However, they can be complex and a little difficult to understand. Today, we’re breaking them down to help clear up any confusion and help you stay safe on the road.
Approaching a Yield Sign
Any time you approach a yield sign, remember to slow down to a safe speed. You should be prepared to stop, even if you don’t see any traffic coming from the opposite direction. If you must stop to allow another driver, cyclist, or pedestrian the right of way, only proceed when it is safe to do so.
Yielding the Right of Way at a Stop Sign or Light
If you’re driving a motor vehicle and you come upon a stop sign or a stoplight, look to see if there’s one in place for traffic traveling on the other roadway. If those drivers do not have a stop sign or light, then you must stop and yield the right of way to them. This includes yielding to both vehicles andpedestrians.
Once they have completely cleared the roadway, you can proceed. Keep in mind that even if there is a traffic control light at the intersection, the roadway should be clear of all traffic before you enter, even if you technically have the green light.
Yielding Without a Stop Sign or Light
What happens if you enter an intersection that doesn’t have a stop sign or stoplight? If you enter the intersection at the same time as another vehicle, the driver on the left must yield to the one on the right.
Yielding at a Four-Way Intersection
Four-way intersections can be some of the most challenging areas to determine the right of way. However, the basic rule is relatively simple. As long as all drivers have their own designated stop sign, follow this sequence: The vehicle that arrived first can proceed first, followed by the vehicle that arrived second, etc.
Most of the time, you can visibly see which cars entered the intersection at which time. However, there may be an instance where you enter the intersection at the exact same time as another driver. When this happens, always yield to the vehicle on your right.
When it’s your turn to enter the intersection, do so as soon as it’s safely possible. Holding up traffic, even if unintentionally, could cause the other drivers to become confused and throw the whole order off course.
Likewise, if you notice that another driver has started to enter the intersection even though you have the right of way, allow them to proceed. Rushing ahead to claim your spot can cause a collision.
Yielding in a Left Turn
If you need to make a left turn, always yield the right of way to all traffic and pedestrians traveling from the opposite direction. This applies whether you’re turning into an intersection, alley, private road, or driveway.
Yielding in a Right Turn
Unless you see a sign posted at the intersection that prohibits you from doing so, you can make a right turn on a red light at an intersection where there’s a traffic control light present. However, never assume this right of way.
Instead, make sure to come to a complete stop, first. You should only make the turn after you’ve yielded to all oncoming traffic and pedestrians and confirmed that you can safely do so.
Yielding While Merging
When you merge into other traffic (such as entering a highway), give yourself time and space to enter the new lane safely. This means adjusting your speed and position to allow traffic to continue flowing freely around you.
If you’re already traveling on the highway and another vehicle needs to merge into your lane, continue to practice safety and caution. Give them space and time to enter the lane by adjusting your speed and position as required. You can also move over a lane if there is room to safely do so.
Yielding to School Buses
It is unlawful for any driver to pass a stopped school bus if the bus has its flashing red lights and stop signs activated. If you are driving on the highway in the opposite direction of the bus, with a median between your two vehicles, then you are not required to stop.
Yielding to Emergency and Construction Vehicles
If an emergency vehicle approaches you with its lights or sirens on, they automatically have the right of way. If you can safely slow down and move out of their way to the shoulder of the road, do so. If not, move as far to the right as you can and come to a complete stop.
Georgia’s Move Over Law requires drivers traveling on a highway lane adjacent to the shoulder to move over one lane if they encounter an emergency or utility vehicle stopped on the side of the highway and engaged in an official capacity. This includes:
- All first responders (law enforcement, fire, EMS)
- Utility vehicles
- DOT vehicles
- HERO units
- Wreckers assisting an accident
Likewise, if you’re traveling through a construction zone, practice caution at every turn. Highway maintenance workers and their vehicles have the assumed right of way, so remain diligent and aware of their movements.
Exercising Caution While Yielding the Right of Way
The laws above are meant to help drivers stay safe on the road. However, it’s also important to exercise courtesy, common sense, and caution while you’re behind the wheel. Even if you know that you have the right-of-way, other drivers around you might not be as aware.
If you can see that there’s a threat on the road or an accident may be imminent, reduce your speed and operate your vehicle carefully to avoid a collision.
Stay Safe With These Right of Way Laws
Understanding our state’s right of way laws can keep you and others safe on the road. The more you familiarize yourself with these regulations, the easier it will be to navigate the local roadways.
However, a collision can still happen, no matter how diligent you are. If you need help taking the next step after suffering a car accident, our team of lawyers is here to help. Contact us today to start your case for free.