In a busy city like Chicago, traveling from one side of town to the other means passing through plenty of busy intersections along the way. If you are using any one of the many highways and interstates that surround and go through Chi-town, you must regularly merge with other traffic as one highway ends and another continues.
These intersections and merge points, though necessary, are dangerous, as they bring vehicles traveling in various directions into close proximity to one another. The Federal Highway Administration estimates that in 2020, over 10,000 individuals died in car accidents at intersections alone, representing roughly a quarter of all traffic fatalities that year.
Right-of-way laws are in place to help prevent these tragedies, but they only work if drivers yield when they are supposed to.
Who Has the Right of Way?
When two or more cars come together at a place and time where they cannot all continue along simultaneously, one car will have the right of way and thus be permitted to continue along first. All other cars in that area must yield, which means they must slow down or stop to allow that vehicle to proceed.
Yielding the right of way means recognizing that the law or a traffic control signal gives another driver the legal right to continue driving. When you yield the right of way, you are giving up any claim to be able to proceed along your way for the moment.
Driving safely through Chicago involves constantly evaluating these situations, determining who has the right of way at any given moment and who must yield it to others.
Basics of Illinois’ Right-of-Way Laws
Right-of-way laws are not complicated, but drivers must keep them in mind at all times to avoid accidents. Some of the more commonly encountered applications of the right-of-way laws include the following:
At any intersection or merge point that features signs or traffic signals, those are what control and determine who has the right of way. In the absence of those indications, the vehicle that arrives at an intersection first has the right of way and gets to proceed ahead of any that arrive afterward.
If another vehicle arrives at an intersection at about the same time as you, any vehicle that is immediately to your right gets the right of way. You must wait until that vehicle passes before you can continue along.
Turning Left Without a Traffic Signal
Suppose that you turn left from a street into a parking lot or onto a smaller side street. Unless a sign or signal gives you the right of way, you must yield to all other oncoming traffic. You are not allowed to proceed with your turn until the road has cleared enough for you to safely complete the turn.
Emergency Vehicles Always Have the Right-of-Way
Finally, any emergency vehicle that has its lights and sirens activated has the right of way. You must pull over to the side of the road quickly (but safely) and allow the emergency vehicle to pass before you can continue.
Right-of-Way Laws Are Essential For Traffic Safety
At their core, all of Illinois’ right-of-way laws are meant to make driving behaviors consistent and predictable. When all drivers know what to expect when they arrive at an intersection simultaneously, there is less likelihood of confusion or a misinterpretation of a driver’s actions. By following these and other right-of-way laws, the likelihood of a collision is reduced, and motorist safety is enhanced.