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Home | What Does Yielding the Right of Way Mean?

What Does Yielding the Right of Way Mean?

by | Mar 18, 2022 | Accidents, Auto Accidents, Car Accidents

Most drivers are aware of the concept of yielding and the right of way, but every driver needs to understand how these concepts apply to their everyday driving. Traffic signs and road signals exist to enable drivers to anticipate the actions of other drivers nearby. Drivers are expected to heed these signs and signals and refrain from moving violations that can disrupt the flow of traffic and startle other drivers. Unfortunately, accidents can happen when drivers do not know when they should yield or how to properly take the right of way.

Moving violations are among the most commonly cited causes of car accidents throughout California. While many moving violations are deliberate and overt, such as running red lights and stop signs or performing illegal turns, others occur due to drivers’ lack of awareness concerning yielding the right of way. If you were recently involved in a car accident someone else caused, and they contest their liability, it’s possible that they do not fully understand how yielding the right of way applied in the situation in question.

When Do I Yield the Right of Way?

To understand when to yield the right of way, think of a four-way intersection with traffic lights managing all directions of traffic. When you are stopped at the red light, the cross-traffic has a green light; therefore, they have the right of way. Imagine a driver in the left-hand lane of traffic at an intersection, and the light says, “left turns yield on green light.” This means the driver can wait until there is a gap in cross-traffic to perform a left-hand turn on a green light without a green arrow. However, cross-traffic proceeding through the intersection would have the right of way. Therefore, the turning driver must yield the right of way until there is a large enough gap in the cross-traffic for them to complete their turn.

Yielding is also necessary on most on- and off-ramps for highways and freeways. For example, if you are entering a highway using an on-ramp, you will probably notice a “yield” sign near the top of the ramp. This indicates that the traffic already passing on the highway has the right of way, and you must yield to them until there is a gap large enough for you to merge onto the highway.

Most drivers know how to yield the right of way in various situations, and most drivers develop their sense of when and where to yield over time. However, young and inexperienced drivers, distracted drivers, intoxicated drivers, and reckless drivers may fail to yield the right of way where appropriate and cause devastating accidents.

What Happens If Someone Fails to Yield the Right of Way and Causes an Accident?

Car accidents can easily cause severe injuries and substantial economic losses. California enforces a fault rule for resolving accidents, meaning a driver responsible for causing an accident is liable for all resulting damages. Failure to yield the right of way when and where appropriate qualifies as a moving violation, even if the driver is unaware that what they are doing is wrong.

If you believe a recent car accident happened because another driver failed to yield the right of way, it’s vital to consult an experienced attorney as soon as possible. Your legal team can help you gather the evidence you may need to prove the other driver is at fault for the accident, helping you hold them accountable through an auto insurance claim or personal injury lawsuit.


Q: What Is the Difference Between Yielding and the Right of Way?

A: “Yielding” means allowing other traffic to pass before you move your vehicle. The “right of way” means the right to proceed based on current traffic conditions. For example, if you are at a red light and intend to make a right turn, as long as there is not a “no turn on red” sign for your lane, you can make your right turn after coming to a full stop and allowing cross-traffic to pass. This would be yielding the right of way until cross-traffic is clear and you can complete your turn safely.

Q: What Does It Mean to Yield to Another Vehicle?

A: “Yielding” refers to allowing other vehicles to pass before you continue on your way. Drivers typically must yield in various ways in different traffic patterns. Many intersections and merging areas will have displayed “yield” signs, but drivers may need to yield in places where there are no such signs. Therefore, all drivers need to exercise sound judgment when yielding the right of way.

Q: What Happens When a Driver Does Not Yield Where Appropriate?

A: Failure to yield the right of way where appropriate can easily result in an accident. A driver who causes an accident in this way is likely to defend themselves by claiming they had the right of way in the situation in question. However, traffic camera footage and eyewitness testimony may disprove their claims. It’s also possible for a driver to cause an accident by failure to yield the right of way if they are unaware that they need to yield in a specific situation.

Q: Do I Need a Lawyer to Sue a Driver for Failure to Yield the Right of Way?

A: If you intend to take legal action against another driver for any reason in California, it is always best to do so with the assistance of an experienced attorney. Your legal team can assist you in gathering evidence against the driver who caused your accident, guide you through the insurance claim process, and ultimately help you maximize your recovery for your damages.

The attorneys at Chris and Frank have extensive experience representing California clients in a wide range of personal injury cases. We understand that it’s not always easy to discern liability for a car accident, and if someone failed to yield the right of way to you and caused a crash, you may be unsure how to hold them responsible for your damages. Our team provides comprehensive legal representation for car accident claims in southern California, so contact us today and schedule a free consultation to learn how we can assist you with your car accident claim.

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