Who Has The Right of Way?

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yield sign

While the law does not give anyone the right of way, it does dictate when you must “yield” that right to others. The law outlines who goes first and who must yield in various traffic situations.  Different parties will have the right of way in different situations. A variety of factors can determine who has the right of way in a given traffic situation.

For instance, if you come upon a yield sign, you must yield to oncoming traffic before turning. If pedestrians are crossing at a crosswalk, you must yield to them until they have safely crossed to the other side. If a pedestrian does not have a “walk” signal, then they must yield to drivers and cyclists who are crossing an intersection. For more information on the right of way and other traffic rules and regulations in New York, see the New York State DMV’s Driver’s Manual, page 33.

When Do Pedestrians Have The Right of Way?

Pedestrians are required to follow all traffic signals and to do everything they can to prevent pedestrian accidents. If the “walk” sign is flashing, pedestrians may cross at crosswalks, but if the traffic light says “do not walk”, then they must wait to cross at an intersection. Pedestrians who are crossing at a crosswalk when the “walk” light changes to “do not walk” have the right of way.

At intersections where there are no crosswalks, pedestrians should cross only when traffic that is moving in the same direction as they are has a green light.

Pedestrians should use sidewalks when sidewalks are available. Pedestrians walking along sidewalks have the right of way when they are passing behind or in front of vehicles that are pulling out of driveways and alleyways.

When Do Cyclists Have The Right Of Way?

Cyclists are required to obey the same right of way rules as drivers are. Although cyclists should use bike lanes when they are available, they will frequently have to use the same roadways as motorists. Cyclists should yield the right of way to motorists in the same way that motorists must yield to cyclists. Cyclists should also obey all traffic signage and use hand signals to indicate when they plan to switch lanes or turn.

When Do Drivers Have The Right Of Way?

The general rule of thumb for drivers is that they must yield to any entity that has already entered an intersection. As they approach an intersection, drivers must be on the lookout for pedestrians who may be crossing. Drivers must yield to pedestrians who are crossing at crosswalks in front of them and alongside them. Drivers who are turning left must also yield to drivers who are turning right through an intersection, or drivers who are going straight in the opposite direction.

Drivers are also required to yield to pedestrians, cyclists, and other entities when turning right into an alley or a driveway. When turning left, drivers must yield to oncoming traffic before crossing a roadway. Drivers who fail to yield the right of way to oncoming traffic could cause devastating accidents.

What To Do If Someone Fails to Yield and Injures You

Even individuals who are familiar with New York’s right of way laws could cause an accident if they fail to yield when required. Right-of-way accidents can result in serious and potentially fatal injuries, depending on the specifics of the crash. One of the most common types of accidents resulting from a failure to yield is a side-impact, or t-bone, collision, which occurs when a vehicle turns into oncoming traffic and is hit by an oncoming vehicle. This can be particularly dangerous for passengers riding on the right side of the vehicle, who are often directly impacted by the collision.

Anyone can be involved in a right-of-way crash, but familiarizing yourself with what to do after this type of accident can give you peace of mind and also help you navigate the confusion and anxiety that generally follows a car accident.

Right after a right of way crash occurs, you should:

  • Call 911 – You should immediately call law enforcement to the scene. Police will make a report of the accident, which you will need to obtain later as part of the claim process.
  • Seek medical attention – Seek medical attention as quickly as possible, not just for your own protection, but also because insurance companies typically require that you be seen within about 72 hours after a crash. If you don’t, it may be difficult to make a claim, as the insurance company may try to argue that your injuries did not stem from the crash.
  • Talk to witnesses – Ask any bystanders for their contact details, if you are able. You may be able to call on them to give a statement regarding what they witnessed later.
  • Maintain a pain journal – Keep a journal in which you record details about your injuries, level of pain, and recovery.
  • Collect documents – Gather documents that detail your medical expenses, such as hospital bills, physical therapy, prescription medications, tests, scans, and any other expenses resulting from your injuries.
  • Consult with an attorney – Consult with an experienced right-of-way accident attorney as soon as possible. Insurance companies can be difficult to negotiate with and may use certain tactics to reduce or deny your claim. An attorney will know how to subvert these tactics and help you seek the compensation you actually deserve.

Contact a New York and Long Island Car Accident Lawyer  

If you have questions about New York’s right of way laws or have been involved in a right of way accident, contact a New York car accident attorney at Finz & Finz, P.C. We have the skills and resources to evaluate and investigate your case, calculate damages, and aggressively pursue compensation on your behalf. Contact us today at 855-TOP-FIRM or reach out to us online for a free consultation.