Washington State Right of Way Laws

There are laws in place to ensure that vehicles understand the proper procedures for yielding the right of way. Without solid right-of-way laws, drivers in Washington would collide with each other on a daily basis, but admittedly, these laws can be confusing. Here, our Seattle car accident attorneys want to review basic right-of-way laws in the state so you can remain safe on the roadways.

Yielding to Pedestrians

In Washington, the law requires drivers to yield to pedestrians crossing the street and marked crosswalks or other specific locations if there are no roadway markings. Intersections with no crosswalk lines on the roadway require a pedestrian to cross from one corner to another corner at the intersection.

Drivers can still be held responsible for accidents even if a pedestrian “jaywalks” in an area they otherwise would not be expected to cross, so long as there is a reasonable expectation that a vehicle would stop to allow them to cross safely.

Right of Way at Stoplights

At stop lights and other intersections around the state, the right of way is typically straightforward. Usually, larger metropolitan areas use stop lights, so drivers must yield appropriately depending on the color of the light. However, there are some additional right-of-way issues you should be aware of:

  • Flashing yellow arrow. Motorists are required to yield to whoever has a green light, which is typically the vehicles going straight through the light on the opposite side of the roadway.
  • Legal turns on red. Turning right on red means that vehicle drivers must yield to motorists coming from the left, but they must also be aware of anyone trying a U-turn in front of them on a green arrow.
  • Solid green light that allows left turns. In this situation, if two cars both have a green light, but one wants to turn right onto a street and one wants to turn left onto the same street, the person turning right will have the right of way.

Right of Way at an All-Way Stop Sign

We say all-way stop signs as opposed to a four-way stop sign because there are intersections around Washington that have 5, 6, or 7 different entrance points from stop signs. As with most other intersections, the right of way will be determined by who arrived at the stop signs first. However, it is not uncommon for drivers to arrive at stop signs at the same time, but the rules remain the same regardless of how many stop signs there are. 

If two or more vehicles arrive at a stop sign at the same time, drivers must yield to the car on the right. If individuals are across from another vehicle and both vehicles stopped at the same time, there is no need to yield unless one driver indicates they are turning, in which case the right of way goes to the driver going straight.

Emergency Vehicle Yeilding

If there is an emergency vehicle with its emergency lights and siren activated, state law requires drivers to yield to the emergency vehicle. Usually, this means motorists should pull to the right and allow enough space for the emergency vehicle to pass. If drivers are unable to pull over, it is best that they stop and stay where they are and make a clear path for emergency vehicles to get through.