Guide to Right-Of-Way Laws in Pennsylvania

Legally reviewed by:
Rubin, Glickman, Steinberg & Gifford P.C.
May 21, 2024
Woman crossing street

Navigating the roads requires a clear understanding of right-of-way laws to ensure safety and compliance. In Pennsylvania, these laws are designed to reduce confusion and prevent accidents by establishing who has the legal right to go first under different circumstances. Whether you are a driver, pedestrian, or cyclist, knowing these rules is crucial for navigating intersections, merging lanes, and sharing roadways respectfully and safely.

At Rubin, Glickman, Steinberg & Gifford, P.C. (RGSG), we recognize the challenges you may face on the road, especially when right-of-way laws come into play during an accident or dispute. Our talented team of attorneys is committed to providing you with the legal guidance and support you need. We are here to help you understand your rights and responsibilities under Pennsylvania’s traffic laws and to offer representation if you have been involved in an incident where these laws were a factor.

Understanding Right-of-Way at Intersections

Intersections are common sites for accidents, largely due to misunderstandings or disregard for right-of-way rules. In Pennsylvania, the law is clear: drivers must yield to the vehicle that arrives first or to the vehicle on their right if both arrive simultaneously. At intersections controlled by traffic signals or signs, the right-of-way is determined by these signals. However, when traffic lights are out or signs are missing, the same principles apply as at an uncontrolled intersection. For turning left, drivers must yield to oncoming traffic and pedestrians, ensuring the path is clear before proceeding.

Pedestrians also play a significant role in right-of-way scenarios. They have the right-of-way at all marked crosswalks and intersections without signals or signs. Drivers must yield to pedestrians crossing the road within any marked or unmarked crosswalk. It is essential for both drivers and pedestrians to be aware of their surroundings and act cautiously at intersections, regardless of who technically has the right-of-way.

Cyclists, like drivers, must adhere to the same right-of-way laws at intersections. This includes yielding to pedestrians and obeying traffic signals and signs. When cycling on the road, bicyclists are considered vehicles and should follow the rules that apply to motorized traffic, including yielding when required and signaling their intentions to turn or stop.

Yielding to Emergency Vehicles and School Buses

Pennsylvania law mandates that drivers must yield the right-of-way to emergency vehicles, such as police cars, fire engines, and ambulances, when they are responding to emergencies with sirens and flashing lights. It is crucial to pull over to the right side of the road and stop until the emergency vehicle has passed. This rule ensures that emergency responders can reach their destinations quickly and safely without unnecessary delays.

School buses also have specific right-of-way laws designed to protect children. When a school bus is stopped with its red lights flashing and stop arm extended, drivers in both directions must stop at least ten feet away from the bus. This law applies to all roadways except when a physical barrier divides the road. Violating this rule not only endangers children but also carries heavy penalties, including fines and suspension of driving privileges.

Merging and Lane Changes

Understanding the right-of-way during merging and lane changes is vital for maintaining traffic flow and preventing collisions. When merging onto a highway or into a lane, Pennsylvania law requires drivers to yield to vehicles already in the lane they are entering. This means using turn signals, adjusting speed to match the flow of traffic, and waiting for a safe gap before merging. Similarly, when changing lanes, drivers should signal their intentions and ensure the lane is clear before making the move. Courtesy and caution are key, as forcing one’s way into traffic can lead to accidents and disputes over right-of-way.

Additionally, Pennsylvania emphasizes the “zipper merge” method in congested traffic conditions or when lanes reduce due to construction. This approach requires drivers in both the merging lane and the continuing lane to take turns moving into the open lane, like the teeth of a zipper coming together. This method has been shown to improve traffic flow and reduce bottlenecks. By understanding and applying the zipper merge technique, drivers can contribute to a smoother, safer driving environment for everyone on the road.

Why Choose Rubin, Glickman, Steinberg & Gifford, P.C. , for Your Case?

At RGSG, we understand the complexities of navigating Pennsylvania’s right-of-way laws and the frustrations that can arise when these laws are not followed, leading to accidents or legal disputes. Our talented attorneys are dedicated to providing personalized attention to each case, ensuring that your legal rights are protected and that you receive the competent representation you deserve.

Choosing RGSG means benefiting from our combined expertise and resources to tackle your legal challenges effectively. Whether you need advice on a right-of-way dispute, have been involved in a traffic accident, or require legal representation for any other matter, we are here to assist you every step of the way. Contact us today at (215) 822-7575 or through our contact form to schedule your free initial consultation and learn how we can help you navigate the legal landscape with confidence and ease.

Legally reviewed by:
Rubin, Glickman, Steinberg & Gifford P.C.
Pennsylvania Attorney's
May 21, 2024
Established in 1952 by Irwin S. Rubin, Rubin, Glickman, Steinberg & Gifford P.C. boasts over 65 years of experience serving clients throughout Pennsylvania. Renowned for its commitment to ethical representation, the firm has garnered prestigious accolades, including being named the "Best Law Firm" for its outstanding legal defense work by U.S. News & World Report. Their team of seasoned attorneys, recognized as Pennsylvania Super Lawyers and Rising Stars, brings unparalleled expertise to a wide range of legal matters, ensuring exceptional representation for individuals, families, businesses, and organizations.