Right of Way Laws in Florida
December 29, 2022 | Winters & Yonker, P.A. | Florida Law
As noted in Washington State Magazine’s article titled “Traffic Signals: A Brief History,” governments have been controlling traffic flow for over a century and a half.
Before stop lights and other traffic control devices were invented, police officers would direct traffic, using hand signals to keep vehicles moving safely and smoothly.
As time passed, electric traffic lights, standardized traffic signs, and complex traffic laws were developed to supplement these hand signals and keep increasingly crowded roads safe, reducing automobile collisions. In Florida and elsewhere, these traffic statutes include right-of-way laws.
Definition of Right-of-Way
In the context of traffic laws, the right-of-way refers to the legal right of a driver to proceed on their way. When one driver has the right-of-way, other drivers must wait until the path is clear before proceeding.
The right-of-way is dynamic; in other words, which driver has the right-of-way can quickly change based on the circumstances. You may have the right-of-way in one moment, but after you travel a few hundred feet down the road, you will have to yield the right-of-way to another vehicle.
Who Has the Right-of-Way in Florida?
Florida’s right-of-way laws occupy several sections in Chapter 316 of the Florida statutes. They include the following guidelines:
Traffic Lights and Traffic Signs
Drivers must obey all traffic lights and traffic signs they encounter on the roadway. When you arrive at a red light, for example, Florida Statute 316.075 requires you to stop your vehicle and wait for the light to change before proceeding. You do not have the right-of-way to proceed straight until your light changes to green.
Similarly, stop signs or yield signs control the right-of-way at some intersections. Florida Statute 316.123 holds that if you encounter either type of sign, you must obey it and wait for other drivers who have the right-of-way to clear the intersection.
Right-of-Way at Intersections
Sometimes it is not clear which driver has the right-of-way at an intersection. At an intersection where all four directions of travel have stop signs, the driver who reaches the intersection first has the right-of-way, and all other drivers must wait before proceeding. Each driver will proceed through the intersection in the order they arrive.
If more than one driver arrives at a four-way stop at the same time, the driver on the right will have the right-of-way, and other drivers must yield to them.
Right-of-Way When Turning
When turning left, you should yield to any approaching traffic unless a sign or traffic light gives you the right of way.
Whether you turn left or right, you should yield the right-of-way to any pedestrian using a crosswalk. This rule also applies to unmarked crosswalks.
Bicyclists, Motorcyclists, and Pedestrians
Florida laws treat motorcyclists and bicyclists who are using public roads the same as cars and trucks. Bikers and cyclists must obey the same traffic laws that car drivers and truck drivers must follow, including right-of-way laws.
However, when a bicyclist is walking their bike through a crosswalk, you must yield the right-of-way to that bicyclist.
Finally, Florida Statute 316.130 states that pedestrians crossing the street somewhere other than at a crosswalk or intersection must give the right-of-way to vehicular traffic.
You Should Obey Florida’s Right-of-Way Laws To Avoid Car Accidents
Although right-of-way laws may seem cumbersome and could delay your travel by a few moments, obeying them is essential to remaining safe on the roads. The Federal Highway Administration reports that over 50% of injury and fatal car accidents happen at or near intersections, where knowing and following right-of-way laws is critical to safety.
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