Knowing The Right of Way Laws in New Jersey is Essential for Avoiding Accidents and Associated Legal Implications.
Following the rules of the road promotes safety, traffic flow, and efficiency. Obeying traffic laws improves road safety because drivers know what to expect when they travel the roadways. Otherwise, speeding, unsafe lane changes, failures to yield the right of way, and other traffic violations lead to accidents and injuries. When everyone follows the rules, traffic flows, and people reach their destinations safely and efficiently. Thus, it is essential that everyone knows the traffic laws and obeys them for improved cooperation and harmony in communities throughout the state.
Understanding the Concept of the Right of Way in New Jersey
One traffic rule that all drivers should know to prevent accidents is yielding to the vehicle with the right of way in specific circumstances, like at intersections, pedestrian crossings, and turns. One driver has priority to move their vehicle ahead of others, while the others yield. For example, all vehicles yield to emergency vehicles, such as fire trucks, ambulances, and police cars. Likewise, postal vehicles and buses have the right of way on the road after a stop and reentry into traffic, and pedestrians have the right of way in crosswalks. Otherwise, those who enter an intersection first have priority over other vehicles.
Foremost, vehicles must yield to pedestrians in crosswalks and at right turns as they are vulnerable to severe harm crossing roads. An inattentive driver who fails to yield to a pedestrian crossing the street can cause great bodily harm. Thus, New Jersey fines those who do not yield to pedestrians or violate other road rules with fines of approximately $85.00 (failure to yield at an intersection) to $200.00 (failure to stop at a stop sign) and penalizes them with a potential 15-day jail sentence or community service in addition to two points on their driving record. The fines and penalties depend on the infraction.
So, a speeding or distracted driver may not be able to stop in time for a crossing pedestrian. They may be forced to swerve around a yielding vehicle ahead, potentially hitting someone when they don’t see the crossing pedestrian. Also, cars with limited visibility due to dirty or foggy windows or mirrors may cause pedestrian accidents. And blocking a crosswalk with a vehicle is also a violation.
Aside from pedestrian crosswalks, intersections are risky areas for accidents. Here, knowing the right-of-way rules is critical. Typically, intersections are where at least two roadways intersect, with or without posted signs and signals. To prevent collisions, following the traffic signs and knowing who has the right of way are necessary. When two vehicles approach an intersection simultaneously, the vehicle to the right proceeds through the intersection first.
So, when you arrive at a four-way stop sign at the same time as a driver approaching at a right angle from you, the driver to your right goes first. Otherwise, the one who gets there first has the right of way. The driver facing a yield sign must wait until ongoing traffic is clear before entering an intersecting road. And when there is no left-turn signal, a driver must wait until oncoming traffic is clear of vehicles and pedestrians before turning. These rules are fundamental to prevent accidents at intersections without traffic signs or signals and blind intersections.
Intersections without traffic signals or signs can confuse when two or more vehicles arrive. Exercising caution is necessary for accident prevention. Safe drivers slow down or stop at uncontrolled intersections, anticipating oncoming or intersection traffic. And entering traffic from a private driveway or road requires yielding to vehicles on the main thoroughfare and the right. Another rule when approaching an intersection with a broken traffic light is to stop as if it is a four-way stop sign. The same traffic rule applies to blind intersections; halt or slow down before entering when obstacles like trees or buildings obstruct vision.
Other problem areas requiring strict attention to traffic laws are traffic circles or roundabouts and intersection turns. A circle or roundabout needs heightened awareness of who has the right of way in getting in or out of the roundabout. Higher traffic roadways, like major highways, take precedence, and drivers intersecting the more trafficked road must yield unless signs direct otherwise.
Right of Way in Specific Scenarios
Other rules specific to expressways, interstates, highways, and toll rolls mandate safety. For example, drivers entering the highway yield to those exiting it and leave the right lane free in heavy traffic to allow others to exit and enter. Construction zones require slower speeds and awareness of your surroundings and traffic signs. Also, when re-entering flowing traffic after stopping for a toll booth, you must yield to ongoing traffic and wait until it is safe to merge. Finally, when car trouble strikes and you need to pull over to the side of the interstate, turn on your hazard lights, lift your hood, and return to your vehicle until help arrives from a trusted source.
Determining the Right of Way According to NJ Law
By law, drivers can turn right at a red light unless expressly prohibited by a posted sign (N.J.S.A. 39:4-115). There, it is important to look both ways and yield the right of way to ongoing traffic and pedestrians. Before making a right turn, a driver must move cautiously to the right as far as possible before turning when traffic is clear. Likewise, waiting until traffic is clear before turning left at an intersection is mandatory, regardless of the vehicle turning left in front of you (N.J.S.A. 39:4-90). Each car turning left at an intersection must yield to oncoming traffic, wait for traffic to clear before proceeding, and use their left turn signal.
Additionally, major roadways require special obedience to traffic rules while navigating onramps and offramps, changing lanes, and maintaining speeds on highways, turnpikes, and parkways. The first rule is to yield to the traffic flow when entering or exiting a major roadway and enter at a speed matching the flow. Stopping on a ramp can cause confusion and accidents, so coordinating speed to anticipate traffic on the route and the traffic on the ramp is crucial.
The Ideal World of Following Right of Way Guidelines
Observing the right of way on all roadways avoids confusion and collisions that can be fatal. When pedestrians cross the road legally, they expect cars to yield and wait until they are safely across the street before driving through the crosswalk. Likewise, bicyclists expect the bike lanes to be clear of motor vehicles and drivers to yield to their right-of-way crossing intersections. Vehicles must be prudent turning at a red light to beware of cyclists in front and behind them.
All drivers on the road expect other drivers to observe the rules so that a person arriving at an intersection first expects priority when other cars come after them. Otherwise, two drivers crossing the intersection simultaneously may result in an accident. Careful attention and following the rules are especially crucial when a pedestrian is crossing, and drivers must rearrange right-of-way priorities. The driver facing the crossing pedestrian must wait until the pedestrian crosses, even when they arrive first at the intersection. Other vehicles at the intersection must figure out who is next to move.
Jaywalking and Parking Lot Safety Issues
However, jaywalking pedestrians defy the rules and can cause drivers to maneuver a vehicle suddenly, causing other cars to collide to avoid them. Pedestrians are a heightened danger in parking lots, especially. Obeying the rules in parking lots avoids injuries, so vehicles yield to pedestrian crosswalks, park in marked spaces only and signal when turning into a space and look carefully for pedestrians and other vehicles when backing out of a space.
Dealing with the Consequences of Failing to Observe the Right of Way in New Jersey
When an accident does occur, an officer called to the scene may issue a citation to the driver who broke the traffic laws. They then are subject to fines, points, community service, and increased car insurance costs. And the same rules apply to pedestrians. When they cause accidents by jaywalking, veering into traffic from a crosswalk, or texting while crossing, they may receive a ticket and have difficulty proving their injuries from the driver’s negligence. While some accident causes are apparent, others may not, and contributory negligence may have caused the accident.
Thus, obtaining and preserving evidence at an accident scene significantly increases the chance of proving your damages result from others. Photos, police reports, and witnesses may help prove who caused an accident. But sometimes, the evidence at the scene may be insufficient, especially if no independent witnesses saw the accident.
Compensation Options After a Right of Way Collision in NJ
Whether you have a clear-cut case, you want to hire a personal injury attorney to help you pursue evidence to support your damages claim. Personal injury victims are entitled to compensation for their general and special damages covering financial and emotional losses. Past and future medical bills, lost income, and pain and suffering are typical compensatory items, but there may be more when an injured party is permanently injured. A loved one may sue for loss of consortium when an accident victim can no longer provide the support of a spouse and companion due to their injuries.
Contact Cohen & Riechelson for Help if You Have Been Injured by a Driver who Failed to Abide by NJ Right of Way Laws
At Cohen & Riechelson, our personal injury lawyers can conduct discovery to find out who was at fault, requiring other parties involved to state what occurred at the accident under oath. An accident reconstructionist may also determine who was at fault by the photos of the vehicles or pedestrians right after the accident or by the vehicle damage. Our attorneys may also help you hunt down a driver who hit and ran, leaving the scene of your injuries.
Speak to a personal injury attorney at Cohen & Riechelson to learn more about preparing and submitting a claim or filing a lawsuit for compensation. When others disobey the traffic rules meant to keep you safe, you can be sure that a traffic violation that caused your injuries will be a significant factor in determining fault. Ask a personal injury lawyer at our Hamilton office questions about your case in a free consultation. We serve the entirety of New Jersey, including Hopewell, Lawrence, Princeton, West Windsor, Ewing, and towns in Mercer County, Middlesex County, Burlington County, and throughout New Jersey. Call for a free consultation at (609) 528-2596 now.