Understanding Right of Way in Massachusetts

Many car accidents are the result of one vehicle failing to yield the right of way. These failures to yield incidents result in crashes such as side-impact collisions, car-bicycle, car-pedestrian, and car-motorcycle accidents, just to name a few. So what does right of way in Massachusetts intersections mean?

Right of way refers to a situation in which one party has the right to proceed when multiple parties meet in the same place at the same time, such as at an intersection. The vehicle, or party, that has the right of way does not have the absolute right, meaning that they still have to exercise reasonable care for themselves and the other parties. The general rule is that if an individual fails to comply with right of way laws, they are at fault.

Types of Cases Involving Right of Way

Below are situations in which right of way can come into play. Although many situations can result in right-of-way accidents, these are some of the most common:

  • Stop Signs: When a stop sign is involved, the vehicle with the stop sign is required to come to a full stop and wait for a time that is safe to enter the roadway. If a driver fails to obey the stop sign and enters traffic without due care, they have done so without yielding the right of way.
  • T-Intersections: Some intersections that are T-intersections have stop signs, but some do not. Regardless of that, the vehicles on the continuing street are considered to have the right of way and the vehicles on the street that is terminating must yield.
  • Three-way and Four-Way Stop Signs: When at least two cars are stopped at a three or four-way intersection with stop signs, the car that stops first has the right of way. If two arrive at the same time, the car on the right will have the right of way.
  • Left Turns: A vehicle that is making a left turn is always required to yield the right of way to any oncoming vehicles.
  • Driveways: Cars that are exiting from a driveway must yield the right of way to oncoming cars.
  • Crosswalks: Drivers should be extremely cautious around crosswalks and ensure that they always yield the right of way to a pedestrian. Even if a “Don’t Walk” sign is flashing, a driver making a right turn on a red light or even a green light should pay extra attention to pedestrians before turning.
  • Right Turn on Red: A vehicle making a right turn when the traffic signal is red must yield to oncoming traffic as well as pedestrians in a crosswalk. A vehicle should always stop before going through a crosswalk and wait until there is no oncoming traffic to proceed with the turn.

Contact an Experienced Personal Injury Attorney

An experienced Massachusetts personal injury attorney can review you case and determine what your legal rights may be. It is imperative that you contact an attorney as soon as possible due to the statute of limitation for filing such cases.


Content Updated: Originally published October 16, 2018

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