Traffic Laws That Can Get You Killed (Right-Of-Way)


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In truth, this law will not get you killed! It’s the common misinterpretation that will do you in.  I’m talking about the right-of-way law.

Let’s say two cars approach the same intersection from opposite sides and they both have a green light, but one car wants to go straight and the other wants to make a left-turn.  Does the car going straight have the right-of-way?

Did you say yes? Well, you’re wrong and it’s that exact misinterpretation of the law that can get you killed.  The law doesn’t give anyone the right-of-way.  The law only tells us who is supposed to yield the right-of-way.  For instance, in the example above, there is no law that says the car going straight has the right-of-way.  What the law says is that the car turning left yields to the car going straight.  Most drivers would interpret that to mean tat the car going straight does, in fact, have the right-of-way. Nonsense! Ka-Ka!

For anyone to think that the car going straight has the right-of-way must be a figment of their imagination or wishful thinking or just a misinterpretation of the law.

Let’s explore a few situations. Would you say the car going straight has the right-of-way if the left-turner turns first in the following scenarios?

  1. the left-turner doesn’t know the law.
  2. the left turner doesn’t care about the law. The driver thinks he can “take” the right-of-way and the other driver will allow it in order to avoid a crash.
  3. the left turner is drunk, dozing, texting, eating lunch, putting on makeup, yelling at the kids in the back seat, or changing their underwear, and doesn’t see the oncoming car.
  4. the left-turner is totally alert, knows the law, sees the oncoming car but thinks there is enough time to “make it” because the oncoming car is far enough away or going slowly.

In all four situations, the driver going straight DOES NOT have the right-of-way simply because the left-turner did not give it!

The first situation is common because many drivers movers don’t know the law.  They think the car going straight is supposed to yield to the left-turner.

The second situation is common because there are many lawbreakers out there; they run red-lights, they don’t stop for stop signs, and they never give the right-of-way.

The third situation is very common.  It’s called distracted driving and who among us doesn’t drive distracted?

The fourth situation is also very common when drivers movers make a “race” out of right-of-way.  “I can make it” is what drivers always say just before the crash!

I have a friend who collided with a left-turner. He was going straight at 40 mph in the right lane on a three lane road when a left-turner suddenly cut in front of him.  There were drivers in the left and middle lanes who stopped to avoid a crash. But my friend collided with the left-turner, no doubt, thinking he had the right-of-way

Right-of-way was the main factor in his collision but there were other factors involved as well.  He could have been more observant, scanning the “big” picture to see the left-turner coming.  The drivers in the left and middle lanes saw him, but my friend did not.  Then there is the speed factor. If the speed limit was 40 mph, he should not have been doing 40 mph when approaching an intersection.  The law demands that you approach intersections with caution since there is inherent danger in an intersection.  So, had he been going slower, maybe he could have stopped to avoid the crash.

What you need to learn from today’s lesson is that you don’t have the right-of-way unless it’s given to you.  And the law doesn’t do the giving.  The law cannot and does not give anyone the right-of-way; only the person you’re in conflict with can give it to you.

Comments are always welcomed and I will respond to questions.

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