If not for right-of-way laws, traffic would be utter mayhem. Who goes first? Who goes next? Can we simply rely on common courtesy and good sense? No, of course we can’t because not everyone is courteous or sensible. Fortunately, though, sometimes we can actually legislate common sense and courtesy, and that is essentially what the right-of-way laws in Pennsylvania attempt to do. By learning the right-of-way laws in Pennsylvania, you can reduce the chances of becoming involved in an accident that could at best damage your vehicle, and at worst result in injury or death.
Summary of Pennsylvania’s right-of-way laws
The right-of-way laws in Pennsylvania can be summarized as follows:
You must yield to a pedestrian who is crossing at an intersection that does not have a traffic light.
You must yield to pedestrians crossed in marked crosswalks, whether or not they are located at an intersection.
You must yield to pedestrians who are crossing at a light.
You must yield to a pedestrian who is being accompanied by a guide dog or carrying a white cane.
You must yield to pedestrians who are crossing at alleys, driveways or sidewalks.
If you are turning left, you must yield to vehicles proceeding straight.
If you enter a roadway at the same time as another vehicle, and you are on the left, you must yield to traffic that is approaching from the right.
If you are entering a traffic circle, you must yield to any vehicles that are already in the circle.
If you are entering a main road from a private road, driveway or alley, you must yield to any traffic that is already in the main road.
If an emergency vehicle is flashing red, or a combination of blue and red lights, you must yield. Emergency vehicles include police cars, fire trucks, blood delivery vehicles, and ambulances.
Try to clear the intersection if you can, but do not stop in an intersection. Proceed, and then pull over when it is safe to do so.
Funeral processions have the right of way over everything except emergency vehicles.
You can identify funeral processions by their headlights and emergency flashers, and possibly flags.
Common misconceptions about Pennsylvania right-of-way laws
Often, drivers think “I have the right of way.” The fact is, you do not. Pennsylvania State law does not assign right of way to anyone – it just states who is required to yield. Even if a driver does not yield the right of way when he or she should, other drivers must stop or yield if their failure to do so could result in an accident.
Penalties for failure to yield
If you fail to yield the right of way in Pennsylvania, three demerit points will be attached to your license. You will also have to pay a fine of $50, and you may also be required to pay court costs.
For further information, refer to the Pennsylvania Driver’s Manual, pages 7-10, 38, 45, and 48-49.