Whether you’re visiting friends in the city, driving to a little B&B in the Finger Lakes, or doing errands at home in Buffalo, understanding New York’s right-of-way laws helps keep you and others safe on the road. Right-of-way laws determine when drivers and pedestrians should yield, stop, and move forward.  

Failure to follow these laws can lead to expensive traffic violations and serious traffic accidents. Knowing the rules of the road is essential for reducing confusion and increasing safety for every New Yorker. 

Sharing the Road With Pedestrians

There are many ways to get around on New York streets. Drivers must learn to share the road with pedestrians, bicyclists, moped riders, and even skateboarders and in-line skaters. 

Pedestrians are especially vulnerable and are more likely to die in a car accident than an occupant of a motor vehicle, and pedestrian deaths are at an all-time high. That’s why it’s so important that drivers yield to pedestrians even if they are jaywalking or crossing against the light.

Three specific right-of-way laws are the most common you are likely to encounter.

First, drivers must yield the right of way to pedestrians at all designated crosswalks. If there are no traffic signals or signals are not operating, drivers are still obligated to let pedestrians (including skateboarders and others on non-motorized wheeled devices) cross the road. 

Next, at intersections without marked crosswalks, pedestrians must yield to traffic and exercise care when crossing. However, drivers are still obligated to stop or slow down to allow pedestrians to safely cross.

Finally, when drivers are making either a left- or right-hand turn, they are required to yield to pedestrians, regardless of the traffic signal.

Sharing the Road At Intersections

More than half of all fatal injury crashes take place at or near intersections. Following right-of-way laws at intersections can prevent wrongful deaths and severe injuries.

It is easy to follow right-of-way laws at intersections with traffic signals. Simply follow the signals, yield to oncoming traffic when turning left, and come to a complete stop before turning right on red. Most intersections allow right turns on red, but be aware of any signage stating otherwise. In all cases, drivers must yield to pedestrians.

When you encounter an intersection without traffic lights, known as an “uncontrolled” intersection, following traffic laws can be more difficult. Drivers must always yield to any vehicles already in the intersection. When drivers arrive simultaneously, the vehicle to the right has the right of way. 

Sharing the Road While Merging

Merging onto a highway safely requires a clear understanding of New York’s right-of-way laws. However, even if another driver is in the wrong, the law states that everyone must practice caution and courtesy. 

Merging drivers should stay in the acceleration lane until they match the speed of traffic and find a safe gap to merge. It is not legally required, but drivers already on the highway should adjust their speed or change lanes to accommodate merging traffic if it is safe to do so.

Keep New York Roads Safe

Fines for disobeying New York right-of-way laws can be steep, but the financial cost pales in comparison to the potential loss of life that may result. The failure to follow right-of-way laws may result in multiple vehicle accidents that harm several people at the same time.

Following right-of-way laws and using a little extra courtesy when needed may slow your drive time by a few minutes now and then, but that’s a small sacrifice considering the catastrophic damage that ignoring those laws could cause.

Contact The Buffalo Personal Injury Lawyers At O’Brien & Ford PC For Help Today

For more information, please contact the Buffalo personal injury lawyers at O’Brien & Ford PC to schedule a free consultation with a personal injury lawyer. We have a convenient office location in Buffalo, NY.

We proudly serve all throughout Erie County and the state of New York.

O’Brien & Ford Buffalo Car Accident and Personal Injury Lawyers
4549 Main St, Suite 201
Buffalo, New York, 14226
(716) 222-2222