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Who Has the Right of Way at an Intersection?

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What Does Washington Traffic Law State About the Right of Way at an Intersection?

It is essential to fully understand and follow the rules of the road to ensure your safety and protect other motorists. However, there are certain areas of traffic law in Washington that can lead to confusion for many drivers, such as who has the right of way at an intersection. Right of way refers to who has the legal right to drive and who must yield to other vehicles or pedestrians.

Multiple motorists often come to an intersection simultaneously, and they may wonder who has the legal right of way. This uncertainty can directly cause a crash as two vehicles attempt to enter the intersection at the same time. Pedestrians can also be hurt or killed if drivers do not yield when they ought to. Our car accident attorneys can clarify the state’s laws on who has the right of way, so you can feel confident in your ability to recognize when you should drive or yield. Unfortunately, you can’t prevent other drivers from violating traffic law. If you have been injured in an accident caused by someone else failing to yield the legal right of way, contact our law office to schedule a free consultation with one of our knowledgeable attorneys.

Why Do Accidents Occur at Intersections?

Intersections are a high-risk area for drivers because vehicles must cross paths with one another, and there may be the added complication of pedestrians or bicyclists crossing traffic. If a single driver does not adhere to the rules and fails to navigate the intersection properly, many individuals can be injured. Motorists often fail to understand the law, and unfortunately, collisions result.

Some of the most commonly cited reasons that accidents occur at intersections include:

  • Failure to stop at a red light or stop sign.
  • Failure to yield to oncoming traffic while making a left turn.
  • Failure to yield to a pedestrian who has the right of way.
  • Failure to yield to a cyclist who has the right of way.
  • Failure to yield to oncoming traffic while merging on the highway.
  • Failure to yield at a flashing red or yellow light.

What Does Washington State Law Say About the Right of Way?

The Revised Code of Washington (RCW) chapter 46.61 outlines the basic rules of the road for drivers within the state, including laws that apply to the right of way at intersections. All motorists should familiarize themselves with these rules before heading onto the road. Although it doesn’t prevent others from making mistakes, you can avoid placing yourself in a dangerous situation caused by your own confusion over the law.

Some of the key right-of-way rules in Washington include the following:

  • Unless there is an authorized flagger directing traffic, when multiple drivers come to a four-way stop, the first driver to arrive is the first allowed to proceed. This is followed by the second driver, and so on, in the order of arrival. If two drivers arrive simultaneously, the vehicle on the right has the right of way.
  • If attempting a left turn in an intersection, you must yield the right of way to any oncoming traffic close enough to present a hazard and any pedestrians crossing the street.
  • If entering a roundabout, you must yield the right of way to traffic approaching from the left.
  • If coming onto the road from your driveway or a private road, you must yield the right of way to all lawfully approaching vehicles and pedestrians.
  • When crossing train tracks, you must yield the right of way to an oncoming train.
  • Emergency vehicles with lights and sirens on will always have the right of way. If you are within the intersection as they are approaching, safely exit the crossing to avoid blocking their path and pull out of the way.

When Do Pedestrians Have the Right of Way?

Pedestrians have the right of way at all marked and unmarked crosswalks. If a pedestrian is within or entering the crosswalk on your half of the roadway, you must stop your vehicle until the pedestrian has fully exited your side of the road. If a pedestrian is legally crossing in an area where crosswalks are unavailable, they should yield the right of way to vehicles, but drivers still have the responsibility to drive safely and avoid collisions whenever possible.

Pedestrians, bikers, and motorcyclists are some of the individuals that Washington state law defines as “vulnerable users of a public way.” If a driver acts negligently and causes an accident that results in substantial bodily harm or the death of a vulnerable user of a public way, there are specific penalties that will be enforced, including:

  • A $5,000 fine, which cannot be reduced below $1,000.
  • A 90-day suspension of driving privileges.

If allowed by the court, the driver may opt to pay a smaller fine of $250, attend traffic school, and perform community service as an alternative to these penalties. However, the original consequences will be enforced if all the requirements are not met within a year.

How Can an Experienced Lawyer Help You?

You may be entitled to file a personal injury claim if you have been hurt due to another driver’s failure to yield the right of way at an intersection. A personal injury lawyer can assist you in seeking compensation for losses such as medical bills, lost wages, property damage, pain and suffering, and more. Because Washington is a pure comparative fault state, you may even be eligible to recover damages if you shared some fault in your accident, but it is critical to seek solid legal advice as soon as possible. Our helpful attorneys can answer your questions and advise you of your rights. Contact Khan Injury Law today at 206-430-6096 to schedule your free consultation today.

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