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Tennessee’s Right-of-Way Laws: When Should You Yield to Other Vehicles and Pedestrians?


In recent years, Tennessee has seen an upward trend in traffic fatalities. However, the state’s roads would have seen much more traffic crashes and deaths if there were no traffic laws.

Tennessee motorists are legally required to obey traffic laws, including right-of-way laws, to avoid causing car accidents. When drivers do not follow right-of-way laws, they endanger other motorists and pedestrians.

Tennessee’s Right-of-Way for Pedestrians

Tennessee law requires motorists to yield the right of way to:

  • Pedestrians crossing a driver’s path on foot or in a wheelchair;
  • Blind persons who can be identified by a white cane with a red tip or a dog with an orange leash;
  • Children playing in the road;
  • Pedestrians when a driver is crossing a sidewalk or entering a driveway, alley, or parking lot;
  • Pedestrians in marked or unmarked crosswalks; and
  • Pedestrians on a driver’s half of the road (the driver can proceed when the pedestrian is far enough into the other half).

Right-of-Way at Intersections in Tennessee

Since a large percentage of car accidents happen in intersections, drivers must follow right-of-way laws when approaching or already in an intersection:

  • A driver turning left must yield to oncoming traffic and vehicles turning right;
  • A driver in a roundabout must yield to vehicles already in the circle;
  • A driver must yield to vehicles already on the road when entering the roadway from a parking lot, driveway, alley, or the side of the road;
  • A driver must yield to traffic already in an intersection even when the driver has a green light; and
  • The driver who gets first to a four-way stop has the right of way. However, when two vehicles reach the intersection at the same time, the vehicle entering from the right should be given the right of way.

Do Emergency Vehicles Have the Right of Way?

State law requires all motorists to:

  • Give the right of way to emergency vehicles with an activated and sounding siren/air horn or with its red and blue lights flashing;
  • When in an intersection, pull over when they have cleared the intersection; and
  • Give the right of way to public transit vehicles, including buses, that signal and move into the roadway from a designated stop.

Tennessee is one of few states that require drivers to yield the right of way to public transit vehicles. While buses have the right of way when pulling from a designated stop, motorists are not required to wait for buses when picking up and dropping off passengers.

Negligence in Right-of-Way Car Accidents

Often, multiple drivers share responsibility for a car accident that occurs as a result of failure to yield the right of way. Tennessee follows the doctrine of modified comparative negligence, which allows drivers to be up to 50% liable for a crash and still receive compensation for their damages.

If you were involved in a car crash in Nashville or other parts of Tennessee, it is advised to consult with a skilled lawyer to investigate your case and determine who had the right of way. Our Nashville car accident lawyer at Calhoun Law, PLC, will assess negligence in your case and help you negotiate with insurance companies to obtain the compensation you deserve. Call at 615-375-4773 to schedule a case review.




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