The Guide to Right-of-Way Laws in South Carolina

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According to the South Carolina Driver’s Manual, “right of way” identifies who must yield and wait at intersections or anywhere else that it would be impossible for more than one vehicle or combination of pedestrians and vehicles to proceed simultaneously. These laws are predicated on both courtesy and common sense, and they are in place to keep traffic flowing smoothly and also to prevent damage to vehicles and injuries to motorists and pedestrians.

Summary of South Carolina’s right-of-way laws

The right-of-way laws in South Carolina can be summarized as follows:

  • If you are approaching an intersection, and there are no traffic signs or signals, you must yield to the driver that is already in the intersection.

  • If two vehicles are about to enter an intersection and it is unclear who should be given the right of way, the driver of the vehicle to the left must give right of way to the motorist on the right.

  • If you are in an intersection and attempting to turn left, you must give the right of way to vehicles already in the intersection, as well as approaching vehicles.

  • If you are stopped at a light, and are planning to turn left on the green light, you must give right of way to opposing traffic and also to pedestrians.

  • Right turns on red lights are permitted, unless there is a sign specifying that you may not do so. You must stop, and then enter cautiously, yielding to traffic already in the intersection and to pedestrians.

  • You must always yield to emergency vehicles (police cars, ambulances and fire engines) when they are signaling their approach by means of sirens and/or flashing lights. Pull over as soon as you can safely do so. If you are in an intersection, clear it before pulling over.

  • If a pedestrian has lawfully entered an intersection, but has not had sufficient time to cross, you must yield the right of way to the pedestrian.

  • Even if a pedestrian is not in the intersection legally, you must still yield the right of way. This is because a pedestrian is considerably more vulnerable than a motorist.

  • School children entering or departing a school bus always have the right of way.

Common misconceptions about South Carolina’s right-of-way laws

The term “right of way” actually does not mean that you have the right to proceed. The law does not state who has the right of way – only who does not. You are not entitled to demand the right of way, and if you insist on taking it in defiance of your own safety and that of others, you can face charges.

Penalties for failure to yield

In South Carolina, if you fail to yield right of way to a pedestrian or vehicle, you will receive four demerit points attached to your driver license. Fines are not mandated state-wide, and will vary from one jurisdiction to another.

For further information, refer to the South Carolina Driver’s Manual, pages 87-88.


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