Right-of-Way Laws in California | Arnold Law Firm

California Right-of-Way Laws

intersection in rural californiaCalifornia right-of-way laws provide clear guidance regarding when drivers are permitted to go and when they should yield to others. These rules promote traffic safety and help keep traffic flowing smoothly.

However, even when a driver has the right of way, motorists must remain alert and cautious to avoid accidents. If another driver violates your right of way and causes a crash, you have the right to pursue compensation for your damages.

Call our Sacramento car accident lawyers today to discuss your claim. The consultation is free, and there is no obligation to take legal action.

Below, we discuss some of the right-of-way laws drivers, pedestrians and others should know.

What Are the Right-of-way Laws for Pedestrians?

Motorists must yield the right of way to pedestrians in most situations. This includes anyone on foot, roller skates, skateboards or wheelchairs.

Drivers are expected to drive carefully in areas where pedestrians are present. Drivers must obey the following right-of-way laws pertaining to pedestrians:

  • Stop for all pedestrians who are in or are entering a crosswalk
  • Yield the right of way even if pedestrians are jaywalking or not following the proper rules
  • Allow time for pedestrians to safely cross the roadway
  • Be patient with pedestrians who are elderly, blind or disabled, as they may take more time to cross

Although drivers are expected to yield, it is important to note that pedestrians still have a duty of care to others. This means a person who crosses the road without checking for oncoming traffic and causes a collision could be at least partially liable for damages.

What Rules Must Drivers Follow At Crosswalks?

Additional right-of-way rules apply when approaching crosswalks, such as:

  • Allow five feet between your vehicle and the crosswalk so pedestrians can safely cross
  • Do not stop in a crosswalk, as doing so can block pedestrians’ legal path to cross the street
  • Yield to blind persons who extend their cane to show they want to enter the crosswalk
  • Do not pass a vehicle that is stopped at a crosswalk

Drivers who fail to adhere to these rules at a crosswalk may be liable for damages if an accident occurs.

Understanding Right-of-Way Laws At Intersections

When two vehicles reach an intersection at the same time, the vehicle on the right has the right of way and should be allowed to go first.

Keep in mind that right-of-way laws may differ at the following types of intersections:

Controlled Intersections

A controlled intersection is one that has a traffic light.

Drivers making a right turn while at a red light must come to a full stop and check for oncoming vehicles. Once the way is clear, then the driver may proceed with the right turn.

If the light is green, or there is a green arrow, then the driver making the right turn has the right of way. Even if there is another vehicle making a U-turn at the intersection.

Right-turning drivers must always yield to pedestrians and others in the crosswalk. Even if they have a green light or arrow.

If a motorist intends to make a left-hand turn at an intersection, he or she should wait for the light to turn green.

If there is no left-turn arrow light, yield the right of way to oncoming traffic before turning. If there is a left-turn arrow light, remain stopped until the arrow turns green.

When making a U-turn, yield to right-turning vehicles in front of you.

Uncontrolled Intersections

An uncontrolled intersection is one that has a four-way stop sign instead of a traffic light.

Drivers are required to come to a full stop at the intersection. If one or more drivers arrive at the same time, then the driver to the right has the right of way.

Otherwise, the driver who comes to a full stop at the intersection first has the right of way to go first.

Three-Way Intersections

A three-way intersection exists when one road ends at another and creates a “T” shape. Motorists traveling on the road that has a stop sign must remain stopped until all vehicles have passed through the intersection. If no sign is present, vehicles on the through road have the right of way, and motorists traveling on the road that ends must stop.

Traffic Signals or Signs

If an intersection has working traffic signals or signs that indicate the right of way, drivers must obey these signs. Here is how the right of way works with signs and signals:

  • Yield signs – Vehicles approaching a yield sign must slow down and use caution when approaching an intersection, as vehicles traveling on the intersecting road have the right of way. If you can clearly see that there are no vehicles approaching the intersection from the intersecting road, you may proceed without stopping.
  • Stop signs– When an intersection is controlled by stop signs, come to a complete stop and wait to proceed until it is safe to do so. Vehicles traveling in a direction that does not have a stop sign have the right of way. If two or more vehicles approach a four-way-stop intersection at the same time, the vehicle to the right has the right of way after stopping.
  • Flashing red lights– This should be treated as a stop sign; stop and yield to traffic flowing in the intersecting road.
  • Flashing yellow lights– Proceed with caution through the intersection.

If a traffic signal is not working, it should be treated as a four-way stop sign.

Understanding Right-of-Way Laws At Roundabouts

A roundabout is a special intersection where traffic moves in a circle in a counterclockwise direction. Vehicles entering the roundabout must yield to motorists and bicyclists who are already in the roundabout.

When in the circle, do not stop to allow other motorists into the roundabout. Doing so can increase the possibility of causing an accident. Stop in the roundabout only if another motorist, bicyclist or pedestrian is causing a potential traffic hazard. When exiting a roundabout, yield to pedestrians and bicyclists.

Right-of-Way on Mountain Roads and On-Ramps

California is home to mountainous roads that require additional caution.

The state’s right-of-way rules dictate that if two vehicles are on a steep road where neither vehicle can pass, the downhill-facing vehicle must yield the right-of-way to the uphill-facing vehicle.

The downhill-facing vehicle may have to back up to allow room for the other vehicle.

Vehicles traveling on the freeway always have the right of way. The driver attempting to enter the freeway must speed up and then merge into an opening while using his or her turn signal to indicate the intent to merge.

Schedule a Free Consultation Today

Violating right-of-way laws can lead to car accidents and pedestrian accidents. Right-of-way laws can be complex, and it can be difficult to determine who had the right of way when an accident happened.

If you were injured in a right-of-way accident, call an attorney for help. Our legal team can evaluate your accident and review your legal options with you.

At the Arnold Law Firm, we charge no upfront fees, and we offer a free consultation. There is no obligation on your part, so there is no risk in talking with us about your case.

Fill out our Free Case Evaluation form or call (916) 777-7777 today.