Right of way is a fun topic (for me) to discuss, but so often it seems to be misconstrued by people who want it to be about feelings, rather than facts (a whole ‘nother series covered in another category).
Right of way has nothing to do with WHO is right, letting people in, ‘being nice’, or ‘polite driving’, but everything to do with which driver is supposed to do what, according to the rules of the road. The reason this matters is that we don’t have a readily available way to discuss these things from behind the wheel, so it’s important we all know, and follow, the rules of the road.
Right of way simply means which driver has which responsibility, based on position and situation. An example is at an intersection with a four-way stop; each driver has a responsibility to come to a complete stop, and then each driver has a responsibility to proceed through the intersection in a timely fashion when it is their ‘turn’. It’s also important not to block an intersection, as this causes congestion.
Another point about Right of Way is that it doesn’t just pertain to automobiles, but to anyone using any form of public walkway or roadway, which includes pedestrians, bicycles, motorcyclists, buses, trucks, and all other vehicles.
While the laws in your state may be a little different from some other states, here are some general rules of the road dealing with right of way:
1) ALWAYS yield to emergency vehicles. Police, Fire, Medical, Public Service, or other emergency vehicles should always have the right of way when their lights are flashing, their siren is sounding, or both. This does not mean you have to stop, pull off the road, or cause a collision, you are simply required to YIELD to emergency vehicles with activated lights, siren(s), or both. A great example of this is that if an emergency vehicle is travelling the opposite direction from you, and you will not impede their travel (they have no need to use your lane to get around other vehicles) then you don’t have to make any changes, you can simply keep travelling along as you are not, nor will you, impede their travel in any way.
2) ALWAYS yield to pedestrians!
In a pedestrian vs vehicle collision, the pedestrian ALWAYS loses, because the vehicle does not give way like human tissue or bone does. It’s not a ‘fair fight’ in any way, and the easiest way to prevent that type of collision is to simply yield to pedestrians. People standing about in the roadway, outside of marked crosswalks, are NOT pedestrians, but care should still be taken to avoid injuring them if possible.
3) KEEP IT MOVING.
My single greatest frustration in driving with the general public is that so many times, they fail to keep it moving. People will gawk, jerk, search, make sudden movements, fail to look before moving, and a long list of other things that create issues; all of that falls under ‘failing to drive’, and should be avoided at all times while operating a motor vehicle.
When you’re driving, keep it moving! At an intersection, take your turn when it’s your turn so traffic can keep moving. On the roadway, keep up with the flow of traffic, and don’t impede traffic whenever possible. If you’re lost, find someplace to pull off, stop, figure it out, and then get back on the roadway. On the freeway/interstate, use the proper lane, and keep it moving!