Right-of-Way Laws in California 2024

Right-of-way rules help you understand who goes first when vehicles, pedestrians, and bicyclists meet on the road. The vehicle that arrives to the intersection first has the right-of-way. Other vehicles, bicyclists, and pedestrians must wait for the person who has the right-of-way.

Never assume that other drivers will give you the right-of-way. Give up your right-of-way when it will help prevent collisions. Here are some general guidelines regarding right of way in California.

Right of-way rules at intersections

  • Intersection with Stop Signs: At a four-way stop or an intersection controlled by stop signs, the driver who reaches the intersection first should proceed first. If multiple vehicles arrive at the same time, the vehicle on the right has the right of way.
  • Intersection with Traffic Signals: When approaching an intersection with traffic signals, you must follow the signals. Green means you can proceed, yellow warns you to prepare to stop, and red requires you to stop unless you are making a right turn where permitted.
  • Uncontrolled Intersection: At an intersection without any traffic control signals or signs, the vehicle on the right generally has the right of way. However, it’s essential to exercise caution and yield to any vehicle that arrives before you or is already in the intersection.
  • Left turn right of way: Check for pedestrians. Give the right-of-way to any pedestrian or approaching vehicle that is close enough to be dangerous. Always yield to pedestrians.
  • Turn at a “T” intersection from a one-way street onto a two-way street: Traffic going straight through the intersection has the right-of-way.
  • Green traffic signal light: Proceed with caution. Pedestrians have the right-of-way.

Merging and Lane Changes

Drivers merging onto a freeway or changing lanes must yield to vehicles already on the freeway or in the lane they want to enter. Use your signals and wait for a safe gap in traffic before merging.


Pedestrians always have the right of way at marked or unmarked crosswalks. Drivers are required to yield and allow pedestrians to cross the road safely.

Emergency Vehicles

When emergency vehicles with lights and sirens activated approach, you must yield the right of way and move to the right side of the road or pull over to let them pass.

Who has the right-of-way on a hill?

On a steep road, uphill traffic often has the right of way over downhill traffic. This is because it is generally more difficult for uphill vehicles to regain momentum after stopping or yielding. Uphill traffic should be given priority to maintain their momentum and avoid potential accidents.

Remember, these are general guidelines, and there might be specific situations or exceptions where the right of way rules can vary. It’s always important to exercise caution, be aware of your surroundings, and follow the traffic laws to ensure safety on the road.