Does this sound familiar? You pull up to a stop sign at the exact same time as another vehicle. Who goes first? Do you watch to see if the other driver inches out into the intersection, or wait for them to wave you on? What if there’s a pedestrian in the intersection, does that change the situation? Does it come down to who is more polite, or are there rules that govern these instances?
Technically speaking, Florida law doesn’t dictate who has the right of way, but it does regulate who must yield in various situations. But above all, every driver must share the responsibility to do everything possible to avoid a crash.
Let’s take a closer look so you’ll be prepared to follow the rules of the road.
Stop Signs or Flashing Red Traffic Signals
Anyone operating a motor vehicle who comes to a stop sign or a flashing red traffic signal (which requires a complete stop before proceeding through the intersection) must yield the right of way to any vehicle or pedestrian that is already in the intersection. Otherwise, vehicles should enter the intersection in the order in which they arrived. Don’t forget that all drivers must come to a complete stop at a stop sign or flashing red traffic signal before entering the intersection.
If two or more vehicles arrive at an intersection with a stop sign or flashing red signal at the exact same time, each driver must yield to the driver on their right. If the intersection only has a two-way stop, and one vehicle is turning and the other is continuing straight, the vehicle that is turning must yield to the other vehicle.
Not all intersections have signs or signals to stop traffic, but right-of-way rules still apply. Drivers should follow the same rules as for stop signs even when no sign or signal is present. You must also yield the right of way when you enter a state highway from a secondary road and when you cross a state highway on a secondary road. Additionally, you are required to yield to other drivers when you enter a paved road from an unpaved road and no signs or signals are present.
As with intersections with stop signs or signals, drivers must yield to vehicles that are already in the intersection or yield to the vehicle on their right if multiple vehicles arrive at the intersection at the same time.
Roundabouts – people love them or hate them. Designed to improve traffic flow and reduce the risk of crashes, these circular intersections can have one or more lanes and do not have traffic signals or stop signs.
In a roundabout, traffic flows in a counterclockwise direction, and drivers entering the roundabout need to yield to vehicles that are already in the roundabout. If the roundabout has multiple lanes, select the proper lane before entering. The right lane is used for those who are going straight or to the right. The left lane is only for those who are making a U-turn. You should never change lanes once you are in the roundabout.
While traveling in the roundabout, follow the speed requirements and do not come to a stop. And be sure to use your turn signal when you exit the roundabout to give drivers behind you, as well as drivers waiting to enter the roundabout, an understanding of your intentions.
Florida law provides guidance for pedestrians – including bicyclists, skaters, and skateboarders in a crosswalk or driveway – to safely navigate our roads. However, all drivers of motor vehicles have a responsibility to do everything in their power to avoid a pedestrian, even if the pedestrian is not following the law. In other words, if you see a pedestrian crossing the street outside of a crosswalk, it is your responsibility to slow down, stop, or otherwise avoid hitting them.
If you are turning at an intersection with traffic signals, you are legally required to yield to pedestrians. Likewise, motorists must yield to pedestrians at a marked mid-block crosswalk, driveway, or intersection without traffic signals.
School Buses, Public Transit, and Emergency Vehicles
Certain vehicles have specific laws that require other vehicles to yield to them at locations other than intersections. These include school buses, public transit, and emergency vehicles.
All drivers moving in either direction must yield to school buses that are stopped to pick up or drop off children and remain stopped until the bus stop signal is withdrawn. The only exception is if you are traveling in the opposite direction of the bus, and you are separated from the bus by a barrier or an unpaved median that is at least five feet wide.
Drivers do not need to stop for drop off or pickup for public transit buses, but they do need to yield to public transit vehicles that are re-entering the flow of traffic from a designated pullout bay.
When emergency vehicles are using flashing lights and/or sirens, all other drivers must yield to them. This includes police vehicles, ambulances, and fire engines. If you see one of these vehicles using lights and/or sirens, immediately pull to the side of the road to allow them to pass safely. However, you should never block an intersection when pulling over for an emergency vehicle since they may need to turn into it.
If you approach an emergency vehicle that is parked or using the shoulder of the road and has its flashing lights activated, you should either move to the lane farthest away from them before passing them, or slow to a speed of 20 mph less than the posted speed limit. If the posted speed limit is 20 mph or less, drivers should slow to 5 mph before passing the emergency vehicle.
This overview will help you stay safe and legal on Florida roads whether you’re visiting the mouse and his friends in Orlando or the sandy beaches of Miami. More information is available in the Florida DMV Driver’s Handbook Manual, available at the Florida DMV website.
Of course, the most effective way to prepare for safe driving on Florida roads is to complete a defensive driving program. Earning a course completion certificate can even help you save money on your car insurance. Check out the DriveSafe Online Florida Defensive Driving courses to find a program that meets your needs.