Traffic laws are designed to prevent car accidents. For example, laws stating who must yield the right of way prevent cars from crashing into each other at intersections, highway entrance ramps, and other places. When a driver fails to yield the right of way, a pedestrian, bicyclist, or another motorist may sustain catastrophic injuries in a motor vehicle accident. 

Many right of way accidents occurs because drivers are distracted, impatient, or negligent. A driver may ignore a yield sign or fail to stop at a crosswalk because they are texting while driving. Whatever the reason for failing to yield the right of way, the result can be deadly.

Failure to Yield the Right of Way – A Deadly Problem

In 2018, failing to yield the right of way resulted in 3,706 traffic fatalities. Only speeding, impaired driving, and improper lane changes exceeded failure to yield right of way as to causes of 2018’s fatal crashes. 

What Does Yield the Right of Way Means in New York?

Yielding the right of way means allowing other vehicles, bicyclists, or pedestrians to move ahead of you or cross the road in front of you. While yielding the right of way generally applies to intersections, there are other locations and situations where right-of-way laws apply.

Right of Way at Intersections

Failing to yield the right of way is a common cause of intersection accidents. If there are traffic signals, always obey the traffic lights. When approaching an intersection that does not have traffic lights, vehicles must yield the right of way to vehicles already in the intersection. 

When you are turning left, you must yield the right of way to oncoming traffic. At a four-way stop, drivers arriving at the same time should yield the right of way to the driver on the right. 

Who must yield at T-intersections? At a T-intersection, the right of way belongs to the drivers on the through street. The driver approaching a dead-end cannot turn left nor right until they can safely turn without causing a hazard to oncoming traffic. 

See the DMV has a guide for intersections and turns for more information.

Turning Onto a Larger Road

Whenever a driver turns onto a larger road, they must yield the right of way to oncoming traffic. This rule applies to side roads, driveways, parking lots, alleys, private roads, and other similar situations. 

Yield Signs and Traffic Circles

Whenever there is a yield sign present, you must yield to traffic that is already on the road or approaching your vehicle. If you are entering a traffic circle, watch for and follow yield signs. Drivers entering a traffic circle, roundabout, or rotary must yield to vehicles that are already in the traffic circle.


Generally, pedestrians have the right of way in marked and unmarked crosswalks. Drivers must slow down and yield to pedestrians with very few exceptions. If a pedestrian steps out into a crosswalk and the light turns green, the driver must wait until the pedestrian crosses the road before moving forward.

For example, pedestrians must follow the traffic signals at intersections that dictate the right of way. Vehicles must yield the right of way to pedestrians who cross at bridges or tunnels meant for pedestrians. However, pedestrians should yield the right of way to cars when crossing roads at locations other than intersections or marked crosswalks.


Bicycles are considered vehicles. Bicyclists are required to follow the same right-of-way laws unless there is an exception. 

Who is Responsible for a Right of Way Accident?

The driver who failed to yield the right of way is liable for damages resulting from a right of way accident. All drivers are expected to understand and follow the right of way laws in New York. Drivers can review right of way rules in the Driver’s Manual provided by the DMV and in the New York Traffic Code.

Damages caused by a failure to yield the right of way accident include:

If you are involved in a right-of-way crash, call the police immediately to report the crash. Make sure that you exchange information with the other driver and get the names and contact information for eyewitnesses.

Take pictures and make a video of the accident scene. Try to capture all traffic signs, traffic signals, skid marks, and debris on the roadway. As soon as possible, make notes about the accident, such as the weather conditions, the color of the traffic light, what the other driver said, and other details about the crash before your memory begins to fade.

If you were not responsible for causing the crash, you should be entitled to compensation for your damages. However, the other driver might blame you for the wreck, or the insurance company may refuse to pay you the full value of your damages. In these cases, seek legal advice from an NYC car accident lawyer after a traffic accident is in your best interest. 

Contact Our Car Accident Law Firm in New York City – Rosenbaum & Rosenbaum, P.C.

If you’ve been injured in an accident in Manhattan, NY, and need legal help, contact our New York City car accident lawyers at Rosenbaum & Rosenbaum, P.C. to schedule a free consultation.

Rosenbaum & Rosenbaum, P.C.
100 Wall St 15th Floor
New York, NY 10005
(212) 514-5007
Open 24 hrs.