If vehicles or pedestrians are approaching one another, in the absence of signals or signs that can regulate the flow of traffic, right-of-way laws apply. Since most accidents occur as a result of failure to yield the right of way, it is important to learn and understand the right-of-way rules, and to obey them. The rules are there for your protection.
Summary of South Dakota’s right-of-way laws
The right-of-way laws in South Dakota can be summarized as follows:
Police cars, ambulances, fire trucks and other emergency vehicles always have the right of way if they are using their air horns or sirens, and/or flashing their blue or red lights. If an emergency vehicle is overtaking you or approaching an intersection, you must yield. Pull over to the right as soon as possible. If you are already in an intersection, drive through and then pull over as soon as you can.
You must always yield to pedestrians when they are in crosswalks, or if you are entering the street from an alley, driveway or parking lot.
Even if a pedestrian is crossing illegally, you must still yield the right of way in the interests of safety.
Blind pedestrians (identified by the use of a white cane or guide dog) have the legal right of way even if they are not in a crosswalk.
If you are turning left, you have to yield to oncoming traffic.
If you arrive at an intersection at the same time as another driver, the right of way goes to the vehicle on the right.
When entering a road from an alley or driveway, you have to yield to traffic already in the road.
You may not block an intersection. If the light is in your favor, but it appears that you may still be in the intersection when it changes, you may not proceed.
Trains that are crossing the roadway invariably have the right of way.
Common misconceptions about right-of-way laws in South Dakota
Motorists often believe that they are entitled to the right of way in certain circumstances. The fact is, you never are – it has to be yielded to you. And even if it appears that you are absolutely in the right, if you take the right of way and an accident occurs, you could face charges. You are at all times under an implied duty to drive safely, and to yield the right of way if it appears that your failure to do so could result in an accident.
Penalties for failure to yield
In South Dakota, failure to yield the right of way will result in four demerit points being added to your driver’s license. You will also be given a $54 fine, plus surcharges, for a total of $120. If you fail to yield to an emergency vehicle, you could face a fine of $200, 30 days in jail, or both.
For further information, consult the South Dakota Driver License Manual, pages 30-31.