As a motorist, it is your responsibility to drive safely, and always take action to avoid a crash, even if you have the right of way over another vehicle. Right-of-way laws are in place for the purpose of ensuring that traffic moves smoothly and safely. They are in place for your protection, and for that of others who share the roads with you. Of course, not everyone behaves courteously, and not everyone displays common sense in traffic, so rules need to be in place.
Summary of New Hampshire right-of-way laws
The right-of-way rules in New Hampshire can be summarized as follows:
If you are approaching an intersection that has no traffic signs and no signal lights, the vehicle that is on the right should be given the right of way.
Vehicles that are proceeding straight ahead must be given the right of way over any vehicle that is turning left.
If an emergency vehicle (a police car, fire truck, ambulance, or any other vehicle connected with emergency services) is approaching while sounding sirens or displaying flashing lights, that vehicle automatically has the right of way over all other traffic. If you are already in an intersection, then clear it, and pull over as soon as you can safely do so.
Pedestrians that are in intersections or crosswalks have the right of way over vehicles.
If a vehicle is crossing from a private road or driveway, the driver must give the right of way to traffic that is already in the main road.
Blind persons (as identified with a white cane that has a red tip on the bottom, or by the presence of a guide dog) invariably have the right of way.
Upon approaching a four-way stop, you must give the right of way to whichever vehicle gets to the intersection first. If in doubt, give the right of way to the vehicle on the right.
Funeral processions must be yielded to regardless of traffic signs or signals, and allowed to proceed as a group. You must yield to any vehicle that can be identified as a member of a funeral procession by virtue of having its headlights on.
Common misconceptions about New Hampshire right-of-way laws
You may believe that the law gives you the right of way under certain conditions, but this is actually not the case. No one is given the right of way under the law. Right of way actually has to be yielded to pedestrians and other vehicles under the circumstances outlined above.
Penalties for failure to yield right of way
New Hampshire operates on a points system. If you fail to yield right of way, each offense will result in a penalty of three demerit points being assessed to your driver’s license. You will also be required to pay a $62 fine on your first offense, and $124 on subsequent offenses.
For further information, consult the State of New Hampshire Driver’s Manual Part 5, pages 30-31.