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Who Has the Right of Way at an Intersection?
Posted in Safety Tips on September 25, 2019
When we drive, we have to follow the rules of the road to keep ourselves and other drivers out of harm’s way. One of the most important laws we have to follow is the right of way – whose turn is it to drive when, and who has control in certain driving situations.
Failure to follow the right of way can lead to serious accidents, but, sometimes, it can be unclear whose turn it is to drive. For example, four-way intersections have certain right of way rules that can be difficult to remember.
What Does Yielding the Right of Way Mean?
When you are driving through Washington state, there are going to be certain situations where you have to yield the right of way. Simply put, this means you have to let someone else drive or walk before you are able to move. Whether you need to observe a pedestrian cross the street or allow another driver at a four-way intersection to drive first, these rules are important for improving traffic safety and driver well-being.
Failure to Yield Accidents
Car accidents are common on Washington roads. According to the Washington Department of Transportation, over 81,000 crashes occurred in the state during 2020. Of those crashes, over 2,000 resulted in a suspected serious injury and 529 were fatal. That same year, 806 accidents occurred at intersections. 122 of those crashes were fatal, and 684 resulted in a suspected serious injury.
To ensure vehicles do not collide with each other, drivers must follow all laws that control the flow of traffic, including traffic lights, signs, and yielding rules at intersections or emergency situations. Failure to yield accidents can occur due to a number of negligent driving behaviors, which may include the following.
- Failure to stop at a stop sign or red light
- Failure to yield to an emergency vehicle
- Failure to yield at a yield sign
- Failure to yield to oncoming traffic during a left turn
- Failure to yield to a pedestrian who has the right of way
- Failure to yield to a cyclist with the right of way
- Failure to yield to traffic while merging on a highway
- Failure to yield at a flashing red or yellow light
The Dangers of Failing to Yield
Washington drivers must adhere to yield signs and signals when they are on the road and take care to follow the rules that govern the flow of traffic. Safety is a major component of Washington traffic law, and failure to yield is a very dangerous breach of traffic statutes, namely RCW 46.61.190 and RCW 47.36.110.
- RCW 46.61.190 states that if a driver is in a collision with another vehicle after driving past a yield sign without stopping at an intersection or another roadway junction, the collision will be evidence of his or her failure to yield the right of way.
- RCW 47.36.110 continues to clarify that stop signs or yield signs may indicate the preferential right of way. Drivers must yield the right of way in many specific situations, including when a vehicle is too close for a driver to cross an intersection safely. Drivers who approach yield signs must slow to a reasonable speed and stop if necessary.
These laws are in place because failure to yield accidents can be very dangerous. If two cars travel through an intersection at the same time, they can easily collide into each other. The extreme force can lead to extensive vehicle damage, emotional trauma, and severe injuries, which may include the following.
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Spinal cord damage and paralysis
- Lacerations and abrasions
- Burn injuries
Right of Way at Intersections
One of the most common situations where you have to yield the right of way is when you are driving in an intersection. Whether you are at a four-way stop sign or driving in a roundabout, adhere to the following right of way rules when driving on Washington roads.
- The first person to arrive at a four-way stop sign is the first to go, the second person is the second to go, and so on. However, if two cars arrive at the intersection at the same time, the vehicle on the right has the right of way.
- If you are turning left at an intersection, you must yield the right of way to oncoming vehicles and to any pedestrians crossing the street.
- If you are entering the road from a driveway, parking lot, or roadside, you must yield the right of way to oncoming traffic.
- If you are crossing a roadway with train tracks and a train is approaching, you must yield the right of way to the train.
- If you are entering a roundabout, you must yield the right of way to vehicles on the left.
Washington Right of Way for Emergency Vehicles
Another important right of way consideration involves emergency vehicles, like police cars, ambulances, and fire trucks. If an emergency vehicle is approaching from any direction and has its lights or siren on, you must yield the right of way.
If you are driving, you must pull over to the right side of the road to let the vehicle pass. If you are at a red light, stay where you are. You do not want to block an intersection while yielding to an emergency vehicle; cross the intersection first, and then pull over.
Pedestrian Right of Way Rules
You must also adhere to Washington’s special right of way rules when it comes to pedestrians. These rules are in place to keep pedestrians safe from collisions while crossing the street or even walking on a sidewalk.
- Pedestrians have the right of way at intersections, whether the crosswalk is marked or unmarked.
- You must yield the right of way to pedestrians if you are pulling out of a driveway or parking lot, or otherwise crossing a sidewalk where a pedestrian may be.
- If you see a blind pedestrian, someone walking with a service animal, or someone using a white cane, you must always yield the right of way to him or her.
- If you are on a multi-lane road, you must yield the right of way to any pedestrians who are within one lane of your vehicle.
- If a pedestrian is crossing the street and in your half of the roadway, you must yield the right of way to him or her.
What To Do After a Failure To Yield Accident in Washington
It is important to follow the right of way whenever you are driving. Following the rules of the road can help keep you and other drivers safe. However, not all drivers adhere to this law – leading to serious accidents and injuries.
Failure to yield accidents can be scary experiences, especially if someone else’s actions contributed to your crash. Under Washington law, however, you can collect compensation from the at-fault driver. The actions you take immediately after your crash can help you seek assistance, preserve evidence, and hold the responsible party accountable.
- First, call 911 and report the accident to law enforcement.
- If you can do so safely, photograph your injuries, vehicle, and the area around the scene.
- Exchange information with the other driver.
- Exchange contact information with any witnesses in the area.
- Seek medical attention and save all documents related to your treatment.
- Contact a Washington car accident attorney for assistance.
If you are in an accident with a driver who disobeyed the right of way, you could claim compensation for your injuries through a lawsuit or insurance claim. Contact a Seattle pedestrian accident attorney as soon as you can after the accident to discuss your next steps.