What Does Yielding the Right of Way Mean?

You might have heard the term “yielding the right of way.” You likely know that the term refers to the standard of conduct at traffic intersections.

But what exactly is the right of way? Who has it and who does not? In this post, we’ll explore what it means yield the right away and when you must yield as a driver.

What Does It Mean to Yield the Right of Way?

Yielding is a simple term that can be defined as letting another driver go first. At an intersection, this means you let another driver pass safely through before you proceed with your own vehicle.

As you might imagine, it’s important for every driver to understand when it is their turn to wait. Otherwise, intersections could become complicated quickly.

When you see a yield right of way sign, it means you need to allow other drivers who have the right of way to proceed before you do.

In general, these are the most common situations in which you’ll need to yield the right of way:

  • Yield to any vehicle that is already in the intersection
  • Yield to other vehicles approaching from a larger or multi-lane road
  • Always yield to pedestrians, whether they are in a crosswalk or not
  • At T-intersections, yield to drivers from normal streets if you are on a dead-end street

With these tips in mind, you should be able to move safely through intersections using the right-of-way principle.

However, not all drivers understand or follow the basic rules of the road, so it’s important to be cautious. Even if you legally have the right of way, watch for any other vehicle that may enter an intersection. Even if you have the right of way, you’re still responsible to drive in a safe manner.

What Happens to Those that Fail to Yield Right of Way?

Those who fail to yield the right of way when it’s appropriate to do so can face a variety of consequences. There are two primary outcomes to be wary of. These include:

Traffic Tickets

If you fail to follow traffic rules and are caught, you could receive a hefty fine. Even if the intersection has no traffic signals or signage, you are expected to yield the right of way before passing through. In California, the protocols and penalties for failure to yield can be found in Vehicle Code 21950.

Traffic Accidents

Perhaps more serious is the potential for a devastating accident to occur as the result of failure to yield the right of way. In some cases, the outcome could be minor, like a fender bender. Other times, failure to yield can cause devastating and expensive injuries.

While some accidents are small, failure to yield is one of the leading causes of car accidents in the United States. In fact, it accounts for around 7.3% of all fatal crashes, according to the National Safety Council.

If you fail to yield the right of way, you could be liable for any injuries or damages that you cause. Drivers on the road have an obligation to drive in a careful manner. They have a basic duty of care for others that use the roads, including other drivers, pedestrians, and passengers.

Likewise, if you’ve been injured because someone else failed to appropriately yield the right of way, talk to an experienced attorney right away. After an accident, you could be left with mounting medical bills and a wrecked car. You shouldn’t have to be responsible for someone else’s careless driving.


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