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We’ve all had that awkward moment. We pull up to a 4-way stop at the same time as another driver and we have no idea whose turn it is to go. Should I make the first move? Should I be patient and let the other guy go? OK, I’ll go. Oh No! That other guy tried to go too. Now what? Fortunately, the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles attempts to explain this situation in their online manual Behind the Wheel.

Technically, Virginia law grants the right-of-way to no one, but it does state who must yield (give up) the right-of-way. When you yield the right-of-way you are letting the other driver go before you in traffic. In the awkward moment above, driver on the left should yield to the driver on the right. The same goes for two drivers who are approaching a 4-way intersection that has no stop signs or stop light. The driver on the left should always yield the right-of-way to the driver on the right. In all instances, yield also means stop when you cannot merge safely into the flow of traffic.

But wait, not all intersections are 4-way. What happens at a 3-way or “T” intersection with no signs or lights? The answer all depends on how you are approaching the intersection. When two drivers arrive at approximately the same time at an uncontrolled "T" intersection, the driver whose road comes to an end at the intersection shall yield the right-of-way to the other driver. This makes sense, because the driver whose road is coming to an end will either have to turn left or right into traffic, which is a more dangerous maneuver than continuing on the straightaway. Many car, motorcycle and truck crashes occur each year because turning vehivles fail to yield the right of way. The only exception is where a “Yield-Right-of-Way” sign is posted, and there is no traffic on the straightaway. If you fail to yield the right-of-way, you shall be guilty under Virginia law of reckless driving. However, the consequences could be much more severe if you fail to yield the right-of-way and collide with another driver. At ABRAMS LANDAU, Ltd., we have seen intersection crashes where the car has crushed the motorcycle or the truck has totalled the automobile. The injuries caused by failing to yield the right of way can be devastating and permanent.

Hopefully, you will now be able to avoid any awkward or dangerous moments on the road. At a 4-way intersection you should always yield to the car on the right. At a “T” intersection you should yield the right-of-way if your road is coming to an end and signal before turning.

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