Studies have revealed that you are at the highest risk of having an accident when you are in an intersection. In fact, fully 1/6 of all accidents happen when a vehicle is making a left turn in violation of the duty to yield right of way to oncoming traffic. In Rhode Island, the right-of-way laws are in place for your protection, and for that of others you will encounter when driving. It makes sense to learn the rules, and obey them. And remember, even if the circumstances are such that you should technically have the right of way, you cannot simply take it – you have to wait for it to be yielded to you.
Summary of Rhode Island’s right-of-way laws
Rhode Island’s right-of-way laws can be summarized as follows:
When turning left, you must yield the right of way to oncoming traffic and pedestrians.
When turning right, yield to oncoming traffic and to pedestrians.
In an unmarked intersection, the first vehicle to get there proceeds first, followed by vehicles on the right.
Emergency vehicles must always be given the right of way. Pull over to the right and wait for the emergency vehicle to pass.
If you are already in the intersection, keep going until you reach the other side, and then pull over and stop.
- When entering a roundabout, you must yield the right of way to motorists already in the roundabout, and also to pedestrians.
You must yield the right of way to pedestrians in crosswalks, whether they are marked or unmarked.
In the interest of safety, even if a pedestrian is walking against the light, or jaywalking, you still have to yield the right of way.
Blind pedestrians can be identified by the use of a white cane or the presence of a guide dog. They always have the right of way, regardless of signs or signals and are not subject to the same penalties as sighted violators.
Common misconceptions about right-of-way laws in Rhode Island
Often, Rhode Island motorists mistakenly believe that if there is an intersection, and a marked crosswalk elsewhere on the roadway, pedestrians are required to use the marked crosswalk. However, in Rhode Island, any intersection is deemed to have a crosswalk, even if there are no “Walk” and “Don’t Walk” signals and no markings. Pedestrians crossing at any intersection when the light is in their favor are doing so legally.
Penalties for failure to yield
Rhode Island does not have a points system, but does record traffic violations. In Rhode Island, if you fail to yield right of way to a pedestrian or another vehicle, you can be given a fine of $75. However, if you fail to yield right of way to a blind pedestrian, the penalty is far more onerous – the fine is $1,000.
For further information, refer to the Rhode Island Driver’s Manual, Section III, page 28 and 34-35, Section IV, page 39, and Section VIII, page 50.