What Does Yielding the Right of Way Mean?

The term “right of way” is a common driving term. It refers to which driver in a given situation has the right to proceed and which driver needs to wait. 

You might have learned the rules of the road as a teenager back in driver’s ed classes. But most drivers may not remember those teenage years so well – if they were even paying much attention at all. 

Part of being a responsible driver is knowing the appropriate driving rules and how to respond in specific situations. Refreshing your memory on essential driving concepts, like right of way, is a responsible choice and a way to contribute to safer roads for everyone. 

Everyday Right of Way

Yielding the right of way is such a common driving practice that you may not even think of it by that name.

When you merge onto a highway, you yield your right of way. This means that when you come down the entrance ramp and see oncoming vehicles preventing you from entering the highway, you slow down and stop if necessary. 

Vehicles on the highway have the right of way because they are already present and are driving at a much faster speed than you are from the entrance ramp. 

In this scenario, the right of way is easy to understand. It’s made even easier by the fact that there’s usually a big red and white yield sign to remind you that it isn’t safe to proceed without checking for oncoming traffic. 

Common examples of when to yield right of way can be seen when you: 

  • Switch lanes
  • Enter a roundabout
  • Approach a four-way stop 
  • Exit a parking lot

Most drivers understand how to respond to these common driving situations. This means that many car accidents are the result of carelessness rather than ignorance of driving rules.   

Yielding for Safety

The phrase “right of way” implies that if you’re driving straight on a roadway, you have the right to continue driving forward. You shouldn’t have to slow down for cars entering the road or changing lanes. Since those drivers are choosing to alter their forward movement, they have the responsibility to maneuver around your moving vehicle. 

Sometimes, special situations arise when a driver no longer has the right of way. While many of these situations are common, failure to yield right of way can be dangerous or deadly. 

Safety situations that require a driver to yield their right of way include the appearance of pedestrians, stopped school buses, emergency vehicles, and roadside accidents. In all these situations, a driver should slow down. 

When approaching a stopped school bus, the driver must stop on the road completely. In St. Louis, MO, failure to stop for a loading or unloading school bus can result in loss of your license for 90 days

Failure to know and comply with laws like these can result in accidents, tickets, fines, and other legal consequences. 

If you’ve been injured in a car accident by a driver who failed to yield right of way, it may be necessary to consult with an attorney, who can show that the other driver breached their duty of care and drove in a reckless manner. 

Be Prepared to Yield

In addition to knowing whether you have the right of way, drivers also need to drive defensively, keeping an eye on other cars. Another driver may not be aware they need to yield. They may also be distracted or driving recklessly. 

When approaching any right of way situation, be prepared to slow down and stop if necessary. Even if you have the right of way, sometimes, it’s necessary to yield unexpectedly to prevent an accident. 

Knowing who has the right of way and using care in situations in which right of way is an issue is a driver’s responsibility. It’s also the best way to reduce accidents and keep the roads safer for everyone.