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Right-of-Way Laws in New York State

Right-of-Way Laws in New York State

Right-of-way laws control traffic interactions between vehicles, bicyclists, and pedestrians. Understanding these rules is essential to avoiding an accident. Yet it is common for experienced drivers to be in need of a refresher on right-of-way laws, many of which may not be considered intuitive.

If you have questions about New York’s right-of-way laws, this piece will provide you with some general answers. For more specific questions, contact an auto accident lawyer from Silberstein, Awad & Miklos.


One of the most challenging locations for right-of-way issues is intersections, which, in many cases, are not controlled by signs or signals. When they do have control measures, drivers are required to obey them at all times. For example, a stop light means you must come to a complete stop every time and not just occasionally.

When approaching an intersection, the general rule is that you must yield the right-of-way to any vehicle already in the intersection before you have entered it. However, if you enter an intersection at the same time as another vehicle, the rules change.

For instance, if you are trying to make a left turn when you enter the intersection, you must yield the right-of-way to oncoming traffic or vehicles executing right turns. You must also yield the right-of-way to cars to your right when you arrive at the intersection at the same time.

Entering a Street

When entering a street or road from a non-public road, such as a driveway, alley, or private road, a driver is required to yield the right-of-way to drivers and pedestrians who are already on the road. For example, if you are pulling out of your driveway or a grocery store parking lot and a pedestrian is crossing in front of the exit, you must yield to the pedestrian.


Bicyclists typically must follow the same rules of the road as automobile drivers, which means the same right-of-way rules apply. Since bicycles are smaller and less protective than cars and trucks, bicyclists should always exercise caution when taking the right-of-way and assume that car and truck drivers may not understand the rules.


In the interest of avoiding deadly accidents, pedestrians should spend most of their time on sidewalks and walkways and not on the road. However, there are many times when a pedestrian’s legal course of travel might take them into the street.

When pedestrians are on the road and legally attempting to cross the street at a crossing, they always have the right-of-way. What is considered to be a crossing in New York? All street intersections in New York are considered pedestrian crossings.

For example, if you are at a red light and a pedestrian enters the crosswalk in front of you, you may not proceed when your light turns green until the pedestrian has safely crossed. In cases of blind pedestrians, drivers must yield the right-of-way to them on every occasion, even if they are not crossing the street legally.

Emergency Vehicles

In New York, emergency vehicles always have the right-of-way when en route to an emergency. These vehicles include all of the typical first-responder vehicles, such as:

  • Police cruisers
  • Ambulances
  • Fire trucks
  • Other emergency vehicles

These vehicles will alert traffic to the existence of an emergency by activating sirens and red, red and white, or red and blue emergency lights. Once a driver becomes aware of the emergency vehicle approaching, they must immediately take steps to yield the right-of-way. This typically involves pulling over to the right and allowing the vehicle to pass.

Keep in mind that drivers in New York are permitted to break certain traffic laws when attempting to cede the right-of-way to emergency vehicles.

Volunteer and Auxiliary Vehicles

Various types of volunteer and auxiliary vehicles transit New York roads but are not considered emergency vehicles. These automobiles do not possess typical emergency vehicle lights and sirens. Instead, they use blue, green, or amber lights.

Drivers are not required to cede the right-of-way to these vehicles, but they should whenever possible, given the fact that they are service vehicles dedicated to public safety. Types of volunteer and auxiliary vehicles typically found on New York roads include volunteer firefighter vehicles, snowplows, tow trucks, and other similar types of vehicles.

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