Right-of-Way Violation Traffic Tickets & Drivers' Legal Options
Other than speeding, one of the most common types of traffic violations involves a driver failing to yield to another driver or a pedestrian who had the right of way. These violations can pose serious risks of harm, so law enforcement is likely to pursue the driver aggressively.
The basic rule governing the right of way at intersections is that a driver must yield the right of way to another vehicle that entered the intersection from a different road. They do not need to wait until the other vehicle has completely crossed the intersection. The rule only requires giving the other driver space to get through the intersection safely. Whether a driver followed this rule tends to be a subjective question. A driver may be able to argue that they acted safely under the circumstances, possibly pointing out factors of which the officer was unaware.
Four-Way Stops and Uncontrolled Intersections
Uncontrolled intersections are intersections at which there are no traffic signals or stop or yield signs, or at which the traffic signals are not functioning. Four-way stops are intersections at which there is a stop sign facing in each direction. The first car to reach an uncontrolled intersection or four-way stop has the right of way. If two cars arrive at the same time from different directions, the “tiebreaker” goes to the vehicle on the right.
To prove this type of violation, the prosecutor would need to show that the intersection met the definition above, another vehicle entered the intersection from a different road, and that vehicle either reached the intersection before you did or was on your right. Failure to yield tickets often result from accidents. Witnesses and photos can aid a driver in showing that the other driver actually violated the right of way. This type of evidence can be useful not only in fighting the ticket but also in defending any personal injury lawsuit that results from the accident.
A three-way intersection is often known as a T intersection because one road dead-ends at a perpendicular road that proceeds in both directions. Regardless of which driver reached the intersection first, a driver on the dead-end road must yield to a driver on the perpendicular road if there is no traffic signal or stop or yield sign, the traffic signal is malfunctioning, or there are stop signs in all directions. A defense in this type of case is usually similar to a defense to a failure to yield ticket at a four-way intersection. The driver probably would need to show that they entered the intersection before the driver on the perpendicular road did.
Further Violations Involving Stop Signs and Yield Signs
Sometimes a driver will stop properly at a stop sign or yield sign, only to get a ticket because they proceeded into the intersection when there was another approaching vehicle that had the right of way. The prosecutor would need to show that the approaching vehicle was close enough to pose a hazard. For example, this ticket might be appropriate if the driver in the approaching vehicle crashes into the other car or suddenly brakes.
A driver may be able to fight the ticket by claiming that the driver of the approaching vehicle increased their speed without warning just before reaching the intersection, which resulted in the hazard. They also can argue that the approaching vehicle seemed to be stopping or making a turn. Perhaps their turn signal was flashing. If visibility was limited at the intersection, the driver might defend their maneuver on the basis that the approaching vehicle was driving at an unsafe speed in the situation. The main objective is showing that the other driver created the hazard or caused the accident. It is easier to accomplish this goal if you can show that the officer did not have a clear view of the surroundings.
This also can be considered a type of improper turning ticket. A left turn violation involves a driver making a left turn when oncoming traffic was so close that the turn was dangerous. The officer must make a subjective decision that the turn was unsafe. The driver can argue that it was safe if there was no accident, and the oncoming driver did not need to swerve or slam on the brakes. This might well be enough to prevent a prosecutor from proving this violation beyond a reasonable doubt.
A driver must yield the right of way to a pedestrian on a marked crosswalk or about to cross at a marked crosswalk. This rule still applies if the crosswalk does not have a stop sign or traffic light. An officer may issue a ticket even if a driver does not strike the pedestrian, as long as they were close to striking them. Some states go even further and require a driver to yield to a pedestrian in an unmarked crosswalk as well. In other words, they need to yield to any person who is crossing the road or about to cross the road at any corner. However, if a marked crosswalk is available, a driver may not need to yield to a pedestrian who is planning to cross at an unmarked crosswalk.
These tickets can be hard to defeat, and a violation involving a pedestrian tends to be taken very seriously by law enforcement. A defense might involve arguing that the pedestrian already had crossed beyond the path of your vehicle. This will work only if the law in your state does not require that the pedestrian has left the street before the vehicle moves forward. If your state prohibits a driver from proceeding while the pedestrian is still in any part of the street, your only option is probably arguing that the officer was wrong in how they saw the scene. This is usually not a winning argument.
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