right of way

By Nnamdi Ikeh-Akabogu (FRSCN)

Respecting others’ rights of way on the road is essential, but the rules can get tricky.

General guidelines, such as stopping at a red light or stop sign and yielding to pedestrians, are straightforward.

However, you’re bound to encounter unique situations at intersections and while driving on unfamiliar or hazardous roads.

To prevent accidents or injuries, exercise due diligence and learn how to handle special circumstances ahead of time.




* Following General Rules:


  1. Come to a complete halt at a stop sign or red light. At a stop sign, come to complete halt for about 2 seconds or until vehicles that arrived before you clear the intersection. If you’re stopped at a red light, proceed when the light has turned green. If the intersection has a white stripe in your lane, stop before this line.


  • If you have a stop sign, but the street you’re crossing does not have a stop sign, wait until all traffic has cleared before crossing the intersection.


  • Before you proceed, be sure all vehicles, bicycles, and pedestrians have cleared your path, even if it’s your turn to go.


  • Treat a blinking red light as a stop sign. A blinking yellow light means slow down and proceed with caution.


  1. Turn right at a red light if it’s permitted and no vehicles are approaching. If you see a sign that says, “No right turn on red,” then you must wait for the light to turn green again. Otherwise, you may turn right at a red light after yielding to oncoming traffic.


  1. Stop for pedestrians who’ve begun crossing the road. Once a pedestrian has begun crossing the road, they have the right of way. You should also stop for pedestrians waiting to cross at crosswalks that aren’t controlled by a traffic light.


In most areas, a pedestrian shouldn’t cross an intersection controlled by a traffic light until they have a green light or a walk sign. However, you still need to stop for a crossing pedestrian if you have a green light and they’re crossing illegally.


  1. Pass through a yield sign only if there are no approaching vehicles. Slow down as you approach a yield sign (give way sign). Come to a complete stop if there are any approaching vehicles, and allow them to pass. If there are no approaching vehicles, you can proceed without stopping.


As a rule of thumb, stop at a yield sign if entering the road would cause an approaching motorist to brake.


  1. Yield to oncoming traffic if you’re entering a main road. Wait for approaching motorists to pass before entering the road from a driveway, parking lot, or parking space along the side of the road. If you’re turning onto a main road from a side road, the motorists traveling on the busier road have the right of way.


  1. Treat bicycles as motor vehicles. Yield to bicyclists in all situations where you would yield to a car. For example, wait for an oncoming bicycle to pass before turning left.


While you should treat bicyclists as motor vehicles, use caution when driving around them. Give bicyclists as much room as possible, and slow down when you pass one.

The traffic expert is DCC Nnamdi Ikeh-Akabogu, DCC Morning and Evaluation (M&E), Special Duties and External Relations (SEDER), FRCC HQ, Abuja

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