Traffic laws are founded in common sense, and are in place to ensure that traffic moves safely and smoothly. In Alaska, most accidents are due to failure to yield right of way when required by law. “Right-of-way” is the right to move across, or onto, a roadway before other traffic.
Summary of Alaska’s right-of-way laws
In Alaska, the right-of-way laws are as follows:
You must slow down when you reach the roundabout, and enter to the right of the island when there is a gap, always yielding to traffic that is already in the roundabout.
If another car approaches at the same time, and it is on your right, you must yield to it.
You must always yield to bicyclists and pedestrians.
When one or more vehicles reach an uncontrolled intersection simultaneously, the vehicle on the right has the right of way.
On a green light, you must yield to vehicles or pedestrians already in the intersection, and also to traffic that is close enough to present a danger if not permitted to proceed.
You must yield right of way to vehicles that are already in the street if you are approaching from an alley or driveway.
If you are entering an intersection on a green arrow, you must yield right of way to vehicles that are already in the intersection.
You are required to yield right of way to any emergency vehicle (fire trucks, police cars, ambulances, etc.) when lights are on and sirens are active. If you are in the intersection already, proceed and then pull over. You must wait until the vehicle has moved on, or until you are ordered to proceed by a police officer.
You must yield to pedestrians who are crossing the roadway.
No matter what the traffic situation or the signal, you must always yield to a pedestrian who is walking with a guide dog or using a white cane, with a red tip or without.
Common misconceptions about Alaska’s right-of-way laws
If you think that in some situations you automatically have the right of way, you are wrong. As an example, if you are approaching an intersection at roughly the same time as another vehicle, and you are on the right, you may assume that you have the right of way. The fact is, the driver on the left has to yield the right of way to you, and you do not have it until it is yielded. This may seem like semantics, but if you keep it in mind, you will dramatically reduce your risk of a collision in an intersection.
Penalties for failure to yield
In Alaska, the penalties for failure to yield can be severe.
For your first offense, you will be fined $20 and assessed 4 points.
Your second offense will cost you $170 and 4 points.
Your third offense will add up to $190 and 4 points.
If you fail to yield to an emergency vehicle, you will be assessed 6 points, and $50 for your first offense, $170 for your second, and $220 for your third.
For more information, consult the State of Alaska Driver Manual, pages 32-34, 62 and 67.