Knowing when to yield the right-of-way to another vehicle is one of the first things a new driver in Mississippi needs to know. Understanding right-of-way laws can prevent countless car accidents. The following information will help drivers (both new and experienced) have a better understanding of how right-of-way laws work in our state.
Mississippi Right-of-Way Laws
Right-of-way is the legal right for one driver (or pedestrian) to use a specific route on a road or highway before the other. The person who does not have the right-of-way must yield until after the other has moved ahead and it is safe to proceed.
Like all states in the U.S., Mississippi has its own set of laws governing how drivers may proceed when one or more vehicles, cyclists, or pedestrians intend to use the same roadway. More information about right-of-way and other traffic laws in our state can be found in the Mississippi Department of Public Safety (DPS) Driver Service Bureau’s driver’s license manual.
Right-of-Way at an Intersection
While drivers encounter intersections on a regular basis, they may frequently question who has the right-of-way. Motorists traveling through an intersection with a four-way stop must abide by the stop signs or traffic lights that are present. According to the DPS, intersection accidents most frequently occur due to a lack of communication among drivers or because one driver makes a risky turn without adequately considering the actions or rights of other drivers.
A car already in the intersection always has the right-of-way. Never attempt to rush through the intersection if another vehicle has already begun moving forward. No matter what the right-of-way rules may say, it’s always better to use common sense. Even if you legally have the right-of-way, allow the other car to pass if that driver fails to yield to you. Your right to move first is less important than your safety.
Motorists should follow these rules at intersections to avoid causing accidents:
- Follow and adhere to all street signs and road markers indicating when and where to stop. When approaching an intersection with a stop sign or signal, you must bring your vehicle to a complete stop. Yield the right-of-way to any vehicle or pedestrian in the intersection. Only move forward when the way is clear, and it is safe to proceed.
- Know your right-of-way before arriving at the intersection. Proceed when another driver yields to your right-of-way. If another driver does not yield, then stop and allow them to move first.
- At a four-way stop, the vehicle that arrives first has the right-of-way. If more than one vehicle arrives at the same time, the vehicle on the right has the right-of-way.
- At a two-way stop, the traffic with no stop sign has the right-of-way. Vehicles arriving at a stop sign must wait until the way is clear. The first vehicle to arrive at a stop sign has the right-of-way. When two cars arrive at the same time, the vehicle traveling straight has the right-of-way, while the car turning across traffic must yield.
- A car entering a roadway that is not marked by stop signs or signals must yield to all oncoming traffic.
- When turning left, always yield to oncoming traffic.
- Signal where you plan to turn by using your vehicle’s turn signals. Signal well in advance of the turn to alert other drivers, walkers, and bicyclists. Do not make a last-minute turn.
- Get into the proper lane as early as you can. Do not turn from a lane that is not designed for turning.
- Look carefully in all directions before moving into the turning lane or making a turn. Do not assume that other drivers see you.
- Slow down and maintain a slow, even speed through the intersection. Do not speed up, slam on the brakes, or change gears or lanes mid-intersection.
Right-of-Way at a Roundabout
Roundabouts, or traffic circles, are circular intersections that allow multiple vehicles to move at one time. Mississippi does not have as many roundabouts as some parts of the country. But because we do have a fair number of traffic circles in our state, the DPS driver’s manual provides guidelines regarding how to travel through a roundabout lawfully and safely.
- Only enter and exit the circle by traveling to your right.
- Yield to any traffic already inside the circle.
- Merge carefully into the circle only when the path is clear.
- Continue through the circle until you reach your intended exit. Exit to your right.
Special Conditions for Yielding Right-of-Way
Under Mississippi law, there are a few special conditions under which drivers must always yield right-of-way. Under these conditions, other right-of-way traffic laws do not apply. These situations involve school buses, pedestrians, and emergency vehicles.
When a school bus is stopped to allow children to board or exit the vehicle, all drivers must come to a complete stop at least ten feet from the bus. No drivers may proceed until all children have safely crossed the street and the school bus has resumed motion, or the flashing red lights are no longer activated, and the stop sign has been retracted. The only exception to this law is limited to four-lane highways where two lanes are traveling in the opposite direction.
A driver found violating these laws will be guilty of a misdemeanor. For a first offense, the penalty is a fine no less than $350 and no more than $750, imprisonment for one year or less, or both. For a second offense, the penalty is a fine no less than $750 and no more than $1,500, imprisonment for one year or less, or both. Drivers may also have their license suspended for 90 days for a second offense. Additional penalties apply if any child is injured due to the violation.
Pedestrians always have the right-of-way. If a person walks into the road, you must stop your vehicle and allow them to cross safely. It does not matter if the person is using a marked crosswalk or not. Extra caution should be given to blind or visually impaired pedestrians who may indicate their disability by using a white- or red-tipped cane. Come to a complete stop and extend special courtesy to sight-challenged pedestrians crossing the street.
The following vehicles—when using flashing lights, sirens, or bells to indicate an emergency—always have the right-of-way, regardless of the traffic situation:
- Fire engines
- Police cars
You must always yield to these types of emergency vehicles when they have activated their lights, sirens, or bells. Mississippi law requires that drivers pull over to the extreme right shoulder of the road and allow these vehicles to pass. When you are at an intersection and you notice an emergency vehicle approaching, proceed safely through the intersection and pull over immediately on the road shoulder past the intersection. When an emergency vehicle is stopped on the side of a highway, move to the lane farthest from the stopped vehicle. If you cannot safely merge into another lane, you may need to slow down or even stop until it is safe to move past the parked emergency vehicle.
Legal Help for Victims of Traffic Negligence
The law office of Pittman, Roberts & Welsh, PLLC defends the rights of injured car and pedestrian accident victims in Mississippi. If you were hurt in an accident caused by another driver who violated a traffic law, we can offer expert legal advice. We may be able to help you recover financially after an injury resulting in losses to you. Reach out to our office to schedule an initial consultation at no cost to you.