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Defensive Driving Tip 5 – Right of Way

Defensive Driving Tip 5:

Right of Way


Believe it or not, many drivers don’t understand the concept of yielding or yielding the right of way. Yielding is a complex subject because people have never bothered to learn or don’t care who has the right of way on the road.

Let’s start with the Comedy Guys basics, shall we? First of all, remember this little slogan. “Green trumps red unless posted.”

Obviously most people know that a green light trumps a red light, but many people in our defensive driving classes think that this merely refers to an intersection where you stop at a red light and go at a green light, but what if you’re making a u-turn at a green light and someone else is making a right turn on red at the same light at the same time? Who has the right of way? Give up?

Actually, it’s quite simple. If it is legal for the car to make a u-turn at the green light, then that car has the right of way. It has the green light. The right turn on red is supposed to yield to any and all traffic that has the green light, including the u-turn. Now if there was a ‘no u-turn’ sign at the light, then the right on red would have the right of way, because the car making the U-turn would be breaking the law.

Another thing to remember is that the main road has the right of way of side streets, alleyways, and parking lots…unless posted. Obviously if you are on a side street with a signal light, then you have the right of way when the light goes green, but if you are on a side street without a signal light, you must wait or YIELD to the cars on the main road. Only when the way is clear are you allowed to proceed.


In our defensive driving classes, this question comes up frequently: Who has the right of way, the car exiting the freeway or the car on the service road?

Most students — in Texas anyway — will tell you that the car exiting the highway or freeway has the right of way and that the cars on the service road should yield to them. So how come we see cars lined up on the service road, refusing to let the cars exiting get over? They are either ignorant of the law or just don’t care. Either way, they could be the cause of an accident.


Another frequent question is “If a two lane highway merges with another two lane highway to form a four lane highway, who has the right of way?”

Simple: Once the merge has taken place, the cars in the two left lanes have the right of way over the cars in the two right lanes, because the cars in the left lanes may need to exit quickly after the four lanes have merged. In this case just think “right of way.” The cars need to be able to move to the right. Many accidents have occurred because people are ignorant of this rule.


comedy guys defensive driving tips, yielding at four way stopsAnother popular Comedy Guys question is about four way stops. People are never sure what to do at a four-way stop if all four of the cars seem to get there at the same time.

This can be a conundrum for many drivers, because it’s one of those driving moments that doesn’t happen THAT often. Usually, it’s obvious which car got there first, but not always. In this situation, once again think right of way. Let the car to your right go first. This will suddenly start a chain reaction, and everyone will get through the stop smoothly.

What about a two-way stop where both cars are across from each other? If it appears that you and the other driver got there at the same time, why not be the bigger person and flash your lights to tell them that they may proceed?

This applies a very useful principle that we should remind you of: it’s impossible to take the right-of-way; it must be given. You, as a driver, can give the right-of-way by letting another car go first, but you cannot take it, meaning you cannot force the other car to wait and let you go ahead. Wanting the other car to wait is not going to make them do it, and “taking the initiative” may force them to wait, but it could just as easily cause them to hit you if they decide to take the initiative, too. It could also get you shot at: these are Texas drivers we’re talking about, after all.


(No pun intended)
Many drivers think that just because they have the right of way, they can take it. Not true. If you are exiting the freeway and the person on the service road doesn’t yield to you, you can’t crash into them, claiming that you had the right of way. If you’re at a two-way or four-way stop sign, and you are the first one there, and another vehicle decides it wants to go, let them. Don’t be the cause of an accident because it was your turn. Be the bigger person.

After all, maybe you were correct and the right-of-way was yours. But being right is no protection from being hit by another car.