Posted in Car Accident on November 14, 2023
Learning to drive in Colorado comes with an entirely new vocabulary. You may be familiar with words such as “commercial vehicle” and “highway,” but these and other terms take on more nuanced and specific meanings when used in the context of driving laws.
The phrase “right of way” is one such term whose legal meaning may be unclear to some drivers, but it is crucial for understanding Colorado traffic laws.
Drivers who fail to follow right-of-way laws can cause severe or even fatal injuries to others. According to the Federal Highway Administration, as many as 25% of all fatal accidents occur at intersections, where right-of-way laws are essential to the safe movement of traffic.
The right of way is a legally recognized privilege for a motorist to proceed along their way at any given moment. If you are driving a car and have the right of way, you can proceed along your route. Any other motorist you encounter while you have the right of way must yield to you. This means they must stop and wait for you to pass on your way before they can resume their travel.
Right of way is fluid and ever-changing. Just because you have the right of way in one moment does not mean you have it in the next moment. You must always be alert for what is happening around you to know whether you must yield the right of way from one moment to the next.
Colorado’s traffic laws include several right-of-way rules. Three of the most important of these laws for drivers to remember are as follows:
Suppose that you approach an intersection without any traffic lights or signs that clearly tell you who has the right of way. If two or more vehicles arrive at this intersection at about the same time, you must yield the right of way to any motorist who is to your right. If there is no car or truck to your right, you have the right of way and can proceed.
Some mountain roads and highways are too narrow for two lanes of travel. In this case, if a driver who is ascending the mountain comes across another driver who is descending, the ascending vehicle has the right of way. The descending motorist is to find the nearest turnout and yield the right of way to the vehicle ascending the mountain.
Except where a driver has a traffic sign or a signal that gives them the right of way, any driver who intends to turn left onto another street, into a parking lot, or onto a private drive must yield the right of way to approaching traffic.
The driver who intends to turn left must wait until there is no nearby traffic that represents a hazard before making the left turn. Once the driver lawfully commences a left turn, their vehicle has the right of way over other traffic.
Colorado’s right-of-way laws cover dozens of situations. Remembering them all from moment to moment can be challenging, so drivers are well-advised to remain alert. Any motorist who doubts which vehicle has the right of way in a given situation should yield or give up the right of way to another motorist.