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Right of way laws in Washington State

On Behalf of | Nov 15, 2023 | Personal Injury |

In 2022, the Traffic Safety Commission reported 745 auto accident-related deaths in Washington state.

Navigating the roadways in Washington State requires an understanding of right-of-way laws to ensure safe and efficient traffic flow. Right-of-way rules aim to prevent accidents and promote a smooth driving experience for all road users.

Right of way definition

In Washington State, right of way is a legal term that defines who has the privilege to proceed first in various traffic situations. One fundamental principle is that drivers must yield to pedestrians in crosswalks. When approaching a marked or unmarked crosswalk, it is the driver’s responsibility to stop and allow pedestrians to safely cross the road.

Intersections without signals

At intersections without traffic signals or stop signs, the right-of-way rules are typically straightforward. Drivers arriving at an intersection must yield to vehicles that are already in the intersection. If two vehicles approach an uncontrolled intersection at the same time, the driver on the right generally has the right of way.

Left turns

When it comes to turning, the law dictates that left-turning vehicles must yield to oncoming traffic. This means that if you are making a left turn and there is oncoming traffic, you must wait until it is safe to complete the turn without impeding the flow of traffic.


In situations where vehicles are entering or merging into traffic, the driver on the main road generally has the right of way. Drivers entering from a side street or driveway must yield to vehicles on the main road. This helps maintain the flow of traffic on the primary thoroughfare.

Emergency vehicles and school buses

Emergency vehicles, such as ambulances or fire trucks, always have the right of way when they are using lights and sirens. Drivers must pull over to the right and stop to allow these vehicles to pass safely.

School buses displaying flashing red lights and a stop sign have the right of way when loading or unloading passengers. Drivers must come to a complete stop and wait until the bus continues its journey or retracts the stop sign.

By respecting the rules and yielding appropriately in different situations, drivers contribute to a safer road environment for everyone in Washington State.