Right-of-way laws bring order to traffic situations where it might be difficult to determine who should yield to whom. Failure-to-yield is the second-most common driving mistake, and it is the leading cause of fatal crashes in seven states.
In Maryland, failure-to-yield will cost you one point on your driving record and a significant fine, even if no accident occurs. With that in mind, we are providing the right-of-way rules for Maryland; more information can be found in the Maryland Driver’s Manual.
Intersections and Left Turns
Intersections, especially if one or more drivers are turning left, can be dangerous places. Over 53 percent of intersection collisions are caused by drivers making left turns; for comparison, only 5.7 percent of intersection crashes are caused by right turns. In fact, left turns are so risky that UPS prohibits its drivers from making left turns unless no alternative exists.
The right-of-way rules for four-way Maryland intersections are:
- You must yield the right-of-way to all opposing traffic (vehicles that are facing you) if you are trying to turn left at an intersection.
- Right-of-way belongs to anyone already in the intersection. This includes bicycles, motorcycles, and pedestrians.
- Right-of-way belongs to all other vehicles and to pedestrians if you are turning right on a red signal.
- Right-of-way belongs to the vehicle that reached the intersection first, or that was at the intersection first, at an intersection with four-way stop signs.
- Right-of-way belongs to the vehicle to your right, if you are unsure who reached the intersection first, at an intersection with four-way stop signs.
If you are at an intersection that does not have four stops:
- Yield to other vehicles if you have a yield sign.
- Yield to vehicles on public roads if you are entering the road from a private road or a driveway.
- Yield to other vehicles if you are entering the road from a “T” intersection.
- Yield to other drivers on a limited access highway or interstate if you are on an entrance or acceleration ramp.
Pedestrians have the right-of-way more often than you might think. Even if you think you have the right-of-way, remember that pedestrians are much more vulnerable. Yield to them whenever possible.
While pedestrians must obey traffic signals, the following rules apply if the intersection has no traffic signal. Drivers must yield to all pedestrians in a crosswalk, whether it is marked or unmarked, if:
- The pedestrian is on the same half of the road as the driver.
- The pedestrian is approaching in the same lane from the other half of the road.
Be especially alert for pedestrians who may be deaf, sight-impaired, or mobility-impaired:
- Look for pedestrians using white canes or who have a service animal or guide dog beside them.
- Watch for pedestrians in any type of wheelchair or motorized scooter, or who are using a walker, cane, or crutch.
At intersections with traffic signals, drivers must yield to any pedestrian using the adjacent crosswalk, regardless of whether the driver is turning on red or on green. Additionally, passing any vehicle stopped at a crosswalk is illegal.
Bicyclists and Motorcyclists
Maryland law considers both motorcycles and bicycles vehicles, so they have the right to use public roads. However, they must also obey traffic laws, signals, and right-of-way rules.
Bicyclists can be much less visible and, because they are quiet, are harder to notice. Bicyclists experience a high death rate whenever they tangle with a motorized vehicle, so watch for them and yield if you can, even if you have the right-of-way.
Just as with cars and trucks, motorcycles have the right-of-way if you are the one turning left. In Maryland, violating a motorcyclist’s right-of-way will mean serious penalties for you if you hit them and cause injuries. Around half of crashes involving cars and motorcycles are the fault of the car’s driver, not the motorcyclist.
Any emergency vehicle using flashing lights and/or sirens always has the right-of-way. If an emergency vehicle is approaching you from any direction, Maryland law requires you to get out of the way. If an emergency vehicle is either approaching you or coming up from behind you, pull over as soon as it is safe to do so. If you are already in an intersection, proceed through it before pulling over.
Funeral Procession Vehicles
A driver must yield to vehicles in a funeral procession, as long as those vehicles have their hazard lights and headlights turned on, even if he has a green light. The only exception is when a driver can continue forward safely without crossing the funeral procession.
Maryland’s right-of-way rules are straightforward. But always remember that other drivers may not know the rules—or may not feel like following them! Defensive driving is always a good practice.