According to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, failure to yield the right of way is the second most common factor in traffic accidents.
Confusion over whose turn it is to go at an intersection contributes to thousands of crashes every year, so knowing the law on right of way can help you prevent a collision and to understand who bears responsibility if one occurs.
Right-of-way confusion causes lots of accidents
The Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles’ data shows that right of way is implicated in many collisions. Failure to yield was a factor in 18 percent of crashes, second only to careless driving (24 percent). By comparison, speeding is a factor in only 7 percent of collisions, and running a red light or stop sign only 5 percent. This indicates that thousands of preventable auto accidents could be avoided if drivers yielded when they are supposed to.
Basic stop and yield laws
First, pay attention to road signs that indicate which motorists must stop or yield to others. At a stop sign, drivers must stop and allow any vehicles moving through the intersection from another street or highway. If there is only a yield sign, drivers do not have to stop first if the coast is clear, but they should slow down and check blind spots before proceeding.
Right of way with multiple stops involved
At two- and three-way stops, whichever direction does not have a stop sign always has the right of way. At four-way stops, whoever arrives at the intersection first gets to go first.
If two motorists driving in opposite directions come to a stop at the same time, both can go if any of the following applies:
- Both are continuing straight
- Both are turning right
- One is going straight while the other is turning right
If one vehicle goes straight and the other turns left, the one going straight has the right of way.
When motorists coming from different roads stop at the same time, the driver to the right proceeds first. That means that if you stop at the same time as someone coming from the other road to your left, you go first. However, if you stop at the same time as someone coming from the other road to your right, he or she goes first.
Right of way at roundabouts
Roundabout intersections are becoming more popular in Florida, such as the one at Ocean Boulevard (A1A) and Southern Boulevard (SR 80) in Palm Beach. Roundabouts are designed to reduce accidents, but these intersections can be confusing for motorists who are not used to them.
The driver in the roundabout always has the right of way. Drivers entering the roundabout do not have to stop if the intersection is clear, but they must yield to vehicles in the roundabout. The most common collisions are vehicles entering when another vehicle is exiting, or drivers getting rear-ended because they stopped unexpectedly when they had the right-of-way.