Injury Law Blog

California Driver Handbook: Who has the right-of-way?

In most cases when driving on California roads it is quite obvious who has the right-of-way. For example, we all know that drivers who have a green light at an intersection have the right-of-way over drivers who have a red light.

Most of us also know that at a four-way stop the driver who reached a stop first has the right-of-way over other drivers at the intersection. However, it can be very difficult to determine who has the right-of-way in some situations, especially if it has been a while since your driver’s education courses. 

Here is some valuable information from the California Department of Motor Vehicles on who has the right-of-way in some not-so-obvious situations:

At intersections without “STOP” or “YIELD” signs… Be ready to stop even if there is no stop or yield sign. The vehicle or bicycle that arrives first has the right of way, or to the vehicle or bicycle on your right if you both reach the intersection at the same time.

At “T” intersections without “STOP” or “YIELD” signs… Cars and pedestrians on the through road have the right-of-way.

At a roundabout (an intersection where traffic goes in a counter-clockwise direction around a central island)… Cars or bicycles that are entering or exiting the roundabout must yield to all other traffic.

On a steep mountain road when two vehicles cannot both pass… the vehicle that is facing downhill must yield by backing up until the vehicle going uphill can safely pass.

Hopefully this information from the California Department of Motor Vehicles comes in handy if you find yourself in one of these driving situations and right-of-way isn’t obvious. Being aware of who has the right-of-way can help to avoid serious car accidents, and liability if a car accident does occur.