This is the final segment of our Crash Trends Series which looks at the primary causes of accident injuries, fatalities, and property damage in Colorado. Drivers who fail to yield or observe laws relating to rights-of-way is a problem on the roads. Much of the reason why these violations occur is that drivers do not recall rules related to yielding. The traffic laws generally do not define who has the right-of-way, rather they explain who must yield based on a variety of possible circumstances. Data across all U.S. states show that failure to yield the right of way are a cause of accidents. The Colorado State Patrol (CSP) Annual Report indicates that between 2011 and 2014 approximately 6.23% of all crashes involving injuries or fatalities were the result of a failure to yield the right of way. This equates to an annual statewide average of about 224 incidents.
Drivers must yield to others in the following most common situations:
- When approaching a yield sign
- When approaching crosswalks with pedestrians
- When approaching individuals walking with seeing eye dogs
- When approaching individuals walking with a white cane (visually impaired)
- At intersections without signals where other vehicles have already arrived
- At “T” intersections, yielding to those on the “through” street
- When turning left
- When traveling on an unpaved road that encounters a paved road
- When re-entering the road after being parked.
Yielding to Driver on the Right
The CSP reminds all those operating cars, motorcycles, mopeds, bicycles, as well as those on foot, that the overall goal in traffic situations is to avoid collisions. When a driver yields the right of way you are allowing the other vehicle to proceed first. The “yield to the driver on the right” rule is a commonly misunderstood one that explains who should go first when vehicles arrive at an intersection at the same time. For example, you approach a stop sign at roughly the same time on a cross street as a driver to your right. Because the other driver is positioned to your right, you yield to them. If in this situation you had arrived before the other driver, he would have been required to yield to you.
Pedestrians are always afforded the right-of-way. Bicycles are classified as vehicles, thus riders must adhere to the same set of rules regarding yielding as other drivers. Oncoming traffic always has the right-of-way when preparing for a left turn. Drivers should not merge in situations where the driver traveling behind you must slow down to allow you in. Yielding is always required when encountering emergency and construction vehicles, as well as school buses. On narrow mountain roads with only enough room for one vehicle to proceed at a time, the vehicle traveling downhill must yield and pull to the side to allow the vehicle traveling uphill to pass.
- Steady red light: After stopping and yielding to through traffic and pedestrians, you may turn right.
- Steady green light: Proceed after yielding to any vehicles or pedestrians in the intersection or crosswalk.
- Red light flashing: After coming to a complete stop, yield to traffic and pedestrians before proceeding.
- Yellow arrow flashing: Drivers turning left should yield to oncoming vehicles.
- Green arrow: You may proceed in the direction indicated, if the signal switches to steady green, yield prior to turning.
General Safety Tips
Drivers should familiarize themselves with areas they will travel through regularly. Avoid responding to passenger opinions regarding the rules of the road or how to proceed. Remain alert when encountering intersections where discretion is necessary to determine rights-of-way. Do not assume that other drivers are aware of right-of-way laws and exercise caution. Driving defensively requires paying attention to the actions of other vehicles on the road. When in doubt, it is better to yield to avoid potential crashes; making eye contact with other drivers allows you to better assess a traffic situation.