Yielding the right of way refers to allowing another vehicle to enter an intersection before doing so yourself. The idea is to mitigate potential accidents in uncontrolled or less controlled areas. Essentially, the right of way exists to lower the chances of two vehicles colliding in areas with no traffic lights.

Although the right of way is a widely used term, a surprising number of drivers are not entirely up to speed on how it works. Most drivers know to yield at a yield sign, but many fail to yield the right of way in areas like median intersections or at stop signs. Failing to yield the right of way at uncontrolled intersections can have devastating consequences. In 2018, 701 people in Texas died in car accidents in or around an intersection.

The right of way is less about asserting you have the right of way and rather about yielding to another vehicle. Failing to yield the right of way to another car, even if it was your turn to go, can result in you being charged in a car accident.

When Should you Yield the Right of Way?

In general, you should yield to any vehicle that enters an intersection before you, even if it was your turn to move forward. 

In Texas, yield the right of way: 

  • When you are at a yield sign. You do not need to stop at a yield sign, but you should slow down to look for oncoming traffic before proceeding into a lane or intersection.
  • At a pedestrian crosswalk
  • When another vehicle is already in an uncontrolled intersection
  • When making a left-hand turn. Always yield to pedestrians and on-coming traffic before making a left-hand turn

One of the most common times you will need to yield the right of way is at a four-way stop, and in this case, you will have to pay attention to which vehicle stopped first. At a four-way stop, the first driver to come to a stop should be the first to enter the intersection. If two cars stop simultaneously, drivers should yield the right of way to the vehicle on their right.

Four-way stops are confusing to many, so don’t be surprised when an overhasty driver moves into the intersection when it was your turn. If this happens, as in all other cases, you should still yield the right of way to the vehicle in the intersection.

The first stopped first to go rule applies to most other intersections not dictated by traffic lights, save two-way stops. At three-way stops and T-intersections, yield to the driver who stopped first. 

At a two-way stop, yield to traffic in the perpendicular lanes without stop signs. If you are making a left-hand turn at a two-way stop, you should also yield the right of way to the driver directly opposite you, even if you stopped first. This may seem counterintuitive, but the general rule of thumb for left-hand turns is to wait for the driver in the opposite-facing lane to pass you like you would at a traffic light.

Regardless of whether you are meant to have the right of way, always be alert to other cars flouting the rules and proceeding into the intersection anyway. Doing so can help keep you safe from distracted drivers.

One of the most confusing instances of yielding the right of way is in roundabouts. Many drivers are under the false belief that cars already in the roundabout should yield to vehicles about to enter when the opposite is true. Right of way is yielded to vehicles already in the roundabout. If the roundabout has more than one lane, you must be in the outer lane to exit.

Relinquishing the Right of Way

This may sound like the same thing as yielding the right of way, but relinquishing the right of way refers more to instances of stopping to wave someone through an intersection when you should have proceeded before them. Relinquishing the right of way is not advised. Stopping to allow another driver in usually confuses drivers behind you and can even result in a situation where no one is sure what to do, leading to a delay in traffic.