Right-of-Way Laws in Arizona
The right-of-way is something one road user yields, or gives, to another in certain situations. It refers to the right to use the road. When a driver yields the right-of-way to a pedestrian, for example, the driver will stop and wait while the pedestrian crosses the street. All roadway users need to know and obey Arizona’s right-of-way laws. Otherwise, the failure to yield could cause a collision.
At 4-Way Stops
Four-way stops can have steady traffic lights, blinking lights or stop signs. With a steady traffic light, a driver must wait for the light to turn green before proceeding into the intersection. If turning at a stoplight, the driver must yield the right-of-way to any crossing bicyclists and pedestrians in the destination lane (except with a green arrow). At a blinking yellow stoplight, the driver should slow down but only stop if turning. At a blinking red light or stop sign, the driver should come to a full stop. Whoever arrived at the intersection first will have the right-of-way. If multiple people pulled up at the same time, the driver to right will have the right-of-way.
At Marked vs. Unmarked Crosswalks
Crosswalks and intersections can be dangerous places for pedestrians and bicyclists in Arizona. Confusion about rights-of-way, as well as negligent and distracted drivers, can cause serious accidents at intersections. In 2019, traffic accidents injured 1,697 and killed 220 pedestrians in Arizona. Preventing these accidents may be possible with a heightened awareness of pedestrian rights-of-way.
- Pedestrians in marked crosswalks have the right-of-way. A driver must stop and yield to a pedestrian who is on the half of the crosswalk that is on the road in front of the vehicle.
- Pedestrians at crosswalks with traffic signals must obey the lights or signs. They may only proceed into the crosswalk when given the go-ahead by the control signal.
- At unmarked crosswalks, pedestrians automatically have the right-of-way. Drivers approaching the intersection must stop and yield to pedestrians crossing the road.
- Pedestrians may not step off of curbs into traffic, even at crosswalks and with the right-of-way, without enough time for oncoming drivers to reasonably stop.
- When a driver is making a left- or right-hand turn, pedestrians crossing the destination street usually have the right-of-way.
One of the only times a pedestrian does not have the right-of-way in Arizona is while jaywalking, or crossing the street at a place other than a crosswalk between two adjacent intersections. A pedestrian who is crossing in the middle of the road is breaking Arizona law. While drivers should always pay attention and brake for crossing pedestrians – including those crossing illegally – a pedestrian who is jaywalking may be legally responsible for a collision.
Law Enforcement and Emergency Vehicles
A driver must pull over and yield for emergency vehicles with their lights flashing or sirens on. A driver must pull to the side of the road and come to a full stop while an ambulance, fire truck or police car with its emergency signals in use is passing. If a police officer, emergency vehicle or utility vehicle with its lights on is parked on the side of the road, Arizona’s Move Over Law requires drivers to move over one lane, or reduce their speeds if they cannot move over. This is for the safety of the roadside worker.
In Merge Zones
Merge zones are some of the freeway’s most dangerous places. They are often fast-paced and confusing, requiring all drivers to understand their rights for a safe transition. In a merge zone, the existing traffic on the road or freeway always has the right-of-way. It is the merging driver’s responsibility to speed up or slow down, signal, yield to traffic, and only merge when it is safe to do so. If a negligent driver or another roadway user fails to yield the right-of-way and causes an accident, that party may be liable for damages.