Ask The Driving School Instructor: Who has the right-of-way?
April 2, 2014
Question: I was making a right hand turn at a red light and was hit by someone turning left from the other lane. Who should have had the right-of-way?
Answer: Actually, no one automatically has the right-of-way. In a crash investigation, the police will try to determine which driver should have yielded the right-of-way to another and assign blame accordingly. A lot of drivers make the mistake of proceeding because they feel they have the right-of-way and wind up in a crash. The law says that every driver must do everything possible to avoid a collision. That means, even though you feel you may have the right-of-way, giving up the right-of-way to another driver who is trying to take it is the only safe option. You can’t take the right-of-way; you can only give it up to another driver.
In this case, if the driver making a left turn had a green turn light, then he had what is known as a “protected turn” and you should have yielded the right-of-way to him. If you both had had a green light, then he should have yielded to you. If you can’t see his light, then you should wait to make sure that he will remain in place and that you will have enough time and space to make your turn safely.
The important thing is to realize that both of you had the responsibility to avoid the collision. If you are going to assume anything about the intentions of another driver, then assume that they will do the worst possible thing and be prepared for it. Drivers need to signal their attentions, be aware of the actions of other drivers, and be prepared to stop.