Washington State Right of Way Laws 

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Right-of-way laws in Washington help ensure that traffic flows properly, which, in turn, lessens the amount of accidents that occur on our roadways. According to the Seattle personal injury lawyers at Elk & Elk Co., there were a total of 1,431 crashes involving a distracted driver in Seattle in 2022. Sadly, 36 people were killed and 243 were seriously injured on Seattle roads last year. 

Everyone can use a refresher on the right-of-way laws periodically, and we want to provide a basic overview for you here.

Pedestrian Right of Way

The law in Washington requires that pedestrians cross the street in marked crosswalks or other specific locations if there are no marked crosswalks. Where there are intersections with no drawn lines as crosswalks, pedestrians should cross from corner to corner. However, because Washington is a pure comparative negligence state, vehicle drivers could still be at fault if they strike a pedestrian even if the pedestrian was not in a marked crosswalk or crossing in a proper location.

The Right of Way at Stoplights

The right of way at stop lights is typically straightforward, but there are certain scenarios where individuals must pay close attention to the right-of-way laws:

  • Flashing yellow arrow. Drivers must yield to whichever vehicle has a green light, which is usually cars going straight through an intersection in the opposite direction. 
  • Legal turn on red. Drivers can typically turn right on red if they have enough space to do so safely with enough space between oncoming traffic to their left, but they must also be aware of any drivers making a U-turn in front of them that could impede their ability to turn right on red.
  • Solid green that allows yielding left turns. If there is a solid green light that allows individuals to turn left, drivers wishing to turn left must only do so if they can turn without impeding oncoming traffic. Additionally, if a vehicle wishes to turn right onto a road and another driver wishes to take a left onto the same road, the driver turning right has the right of way.

The Right of Way at an All-Way Stop Sign

Most people are familiar with four-way stop signs, but there are several all-way stop signs throughout Seattle. Some intersections have five-, six-, and seven-way intersections. As with four-way stop signs, individuals who arrive first have the right of way. However, with more intersecting roads, it can be difficult to figure out who arrived first.

If two vehicles arrive at a stop sign at the same time, the vehicle on the right has the right of way. If individuals stop across from one another at the same time, there will be no need to yield unless one driver is turning, which means the driver going straight has the right of way.

Emergency Vehicles – When Do You Yield?

If there are emergency vehicles with their lights and sirens activated, the law requires that drivers yield to the emergency vehicles. This means that motorists should pull over to the right side of the road and allow space for the emergency vehicle to pass. If drivers are unable to pull over, it’s best for them to stop and stay where they are in order to keep a clear path for the emergency vehicles. This includes drivers at intersections when emergency vehicles are going through. Drivers should never stop in the middle of an intersection if there is an emergency vehicle coming.