Understanding Right-of-Way Traffic Laws In Illinois | Staver Accident Injury Lawyers, P.C.
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Understanding Right-of-Way

Written by Jared Staver

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Jared Staver is a Personal Injury Lawyer based in Chicago, Illinois and has been practicing law for over 20 years.

Jared Staver

CATEGORY: Auto Accidents, Personal Injury

Right-of-way is extremely important for keeping our roads safe. It tells us in any given situation who should yield to other drivers on the road. With common sense, right-of-way laws prevent accidents.

Unfortunately, according to the Federal Highway Administration, one-quarter of traffic fatalities and nearly half of the traffic injuries occur at intersections — many due to confusion regarding the right of way.

Because every driver has a primary responsibility to avoid an accident, you must pay careful attention to other drivers’ intentions and actions and prepare to yield instead of assuming that other drivers will.

What Is Right of Way?

Every driver must do everything they can to prevent collisions. The best way to do so is to follow right-of-way rules. After all, if an accident does happen, the driver violating the right-of-way will ultimately be held responsible.

While most drivers generally understand some situations where they have the right-of-way, right-of-way laws can often be confusing. The following rules lay out the most important things you should know to determine who has the right-of-way.

Right of Way by Type of Intersection

Turning at a Controlled Intersection

Controlled intersections have pavement markings, road signs, and other traffic signals that tell drivers when they have the right of way. Here is how to handle the right of way when you arrive at any of the following controlled intersections:

  • Follow road signs. If you have a stop sign or yield sign, you are responsible for following it.
  • Pedestrians in crosswalks always have the right-of-way. Make sure to also keep an eye out for pedestrians not in crosswalks.
  • When you are pulling out of a parking space or off the side of the road, you should always yield to drivers on the street. This includes pulling out of driveways and small alleys.
  • At a T-intersection, the driver on the road dead-ending must yield to traffic on the other road.
  • Drivers entering a roundabout should yield to cars already in the circle. Just like at four-way stops, the right-of-way then moves to the right.
  • Yield to any emergency vehicles, school buses that are stopping, and funeral processions.

Turning at an Uncontrolled Intersection

Uncontrolled intersections are road intersections that do not have street signs, traffic lights, or road markings. These intersections can be more challenging to navigate. Here is how the right of way works in different situations at an uncontrolled intersection:

  • At a four-way stop, the driver who arrives first should go first after stopping. If two or more cars arrive simultaneously, the vehicle on the right has the right-of-way.
  • When two roads cross, and there are no stop lights or signs, the driver on the smaller road must yield to cars on the multi-lane road. This goes along with the general concept that the drivers on the road with more traffic have the right-of-way.
  • Drivers on gravel or dirt roads should yield when entering a paved roadway.
  • When on a highway, the driver merging from an on-ramp has the right-of-way.

Right of Way on One Lane Roads

The right of way on a one-lane road varies depending on whether street markings indicate who has the right of way. When a driver goes downhill, the driver going uphill will have the right of way.

Tips for Merging Safely

Another confusing concept related to right-of-way is merging. When we merge, there are certain precautions we should take to respect right-of-way rules and prevent an accident. These five tips will help you merge safely on the highway.

  • Prepare to merge far in advance. You should signal your intentions 100 to 300 feet before merging or changing lanes.
  • Check your blind spots and mirrors carefully to ensure it is safe to merge. Make sure you have at least a three to four-second gap in traffic.
  • Make sure you are driving fast enough to merge safely. While still in your original lane, adjust your speed to match the speeds of vehicles in the lane where you are going. If this is not possible, ensure you have enough space to gain speed quickly in your new lane so as not to impede traffic.
  • Wait until you have a dashed line, not a solid line, to merge. Also, be careful never to pass in zones with signs prohibiting it.
  • Cross only one lane of traffic at a time. After that, repeat these precautions before crossing into the next lane.

Once you do all these things before passing or merging every time, you can ensure a safer ride. Although all these tips are guidelines, not hard rules, it is best to take right-of-way seriously. Not only can they help make driving less stressful, but they can also prevent severe accidents and even save your life.

Contact a Car Accident Lawyer in Illinois for Help Today

Our car accident attorneys serve clients throughout the Chicago area, including Aurora, Elgin, Hinsdale, Joliet, Naperville, and Waukegan. If you are hurt in a Chicago car accident and wondering what your options are, please don’t hesitate to contact our attorneys at Staver Accident Injury Lawyers, P.C. today. We are here 24/7 and would be happy to discuss your legal situation in a free consultation: (312) 736-0767.

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