Who has the Right of Way at 4-Way Intersections?

This starts our series on some interesting scenarios where even an experience driver may not know which car has the right of way. For most drivers, including ourselves, it has been years since we have been tested on our knowledge of the rules of the road. And even for those of us who aced driver’s education class, there’s always room for brushing up on the subject. So today, we discuss who has the right of way.

Scenario 1: You are approaching a 4-way, traffic light controlled intersection. Your light is red, but you plan to turn right. The car across the intersection from you is stopped to turn left (the same road you want to turn right onto) and just received a green arrow. Who has the right of way?

Answer: The car turning left with the green arrow has the right of way. Under Alabama Code Section 32-5A-32(3)(b), a vehicle with a steady red indication (the car wanting to turn right) may cautiously enter the intersection to turn right, after stopping. So the vehicle turning right only has the right to enter the intersection after stopping. In contrast, under Alabama Code Section 32-5A-(1)(b) states that a vehicle facing a green arrow may enter an intersection to make the movement shown on the arrow. The vehicle with the left arrow is not required to stop. Short answer is that red lights yield to green lights.

Scenario 2: You are approaching a 4-way, traffic light controlled intersection. Your light is green and you plan to turn right. The car across the intersection from you is waiting to turn left and has a green light (not arrow). Who has the right of way?

Answer: You (The car turning right) have the right of way. Under this new scenario, the car turning left has lost its green arrow and is instead relying on a green circle. You also have a green circle. The car attempting to turn left must wait until you complete your right hand turn before attempting its right hand turn across your lanes of travel.

These are two very common scenarios drivers face. We hope that these scenarios help educate you and make you a safer driver on the roadways. It is always safer to be a defensive driver and make sure you know what the other driver is doing when faced with one of these scenarios. Be on the lookout for more articles on our “Who has the Right of Way?” series.