What Are the Tennessee Right of Way Laws?

Pedestrian and motor vehicle accidents are a common cause of injury and death throughout Tennessee. Confusion about the right of way laws can cause many of these accidents, as well as driving under the influence, distracted driving, and other types of recklessness and negligence. To effectively avoid these accidents, Tennessee drivers and pedestrians alike can familiarize themselves with the basics of Tennessee right of way laws.

Pedestrian Right of Way Laws

Pedestrians receive special protections under Tennessee traffic statutes to reduce the effect of collisions. Unfortunately, many drivers do not realize the extent to which they have to yield to pedestrians and drive negligently, leading to many accidents. To avoid collisions, drivers and pedestrians must follow these right of way laws.

  • Drivers must yield to pedestrians whether they are in an unmarked crosswalk or marked crosswalk.
  • Drivers must yield to children who are playing in the road.
  • Drivers must yield the right of way to any person crossing the road on foot or in a wheelchair.
  • Drivers must yield to pedestrians crossing, exiting, or entering a parking lot, alley, driveway, or sidewalk.
  • Drivers must yield to pedestrians crossing their half of the roadway.
  • Drivers must always yield to a blind person, identified through the use of a service dog or white cane.
  • Pedestrians must remain on the sidewalk if one is in the area. If no sidewalk exists, pedestrians should walk along the shoulder as far away from traffic as possible while facing the direction of traffic.

Intersection Right of Way Laws

Drivers should also stay informed about when they should yield to other drivers and when they can claim the right of way.

  • Drivers entering an intersection must yield to any vehicle already in the intersection, even if they have a green light.
  • Drivers cannot block an intersection, even during a green light.
  • Drivers must yield to other drivers already in the circle when entering a roundabout.
  • In a four-way stop, drivers get the right of way based on when they approached the stop sign. Whenever drivers approach a stop at the same time, the vehicle on the right receives right of way.
  • Drivers entering the road from a driveway, alley, parking lot, or side of the road must yield to oncoming traffic.
  • Drivers turning left must yield to oncoming and right-turning traffic.

Bus and Emergency Vehicle Right of Way Laws

Tennessee laws afford special protections to emergency vehicles and transit buses. Many states do not have right of way laws for public transit, which can lead to a lot of confusion for motorists.

  • Drivers must give the right of way to an emergency vehicle when it is flashing a blue or red light or sounding a siren or air horn.
  • If a driver is already in an intersection when an emergency vehicle is approaching, he or she should clear the intersection and pull over as soon as possible.
  • Drivers must give the right of way to any public transit vehicle signaling and entering the road from a bus stop. However, drivers do not need to wait for public transit buses that are dropping off or picking up passengers.
  • Drivers must always yield the right of way to any school bus and stop when they are dropping off or picking up passengers.

Potential Consequences for Right of Way Violations

Under Tennessee law, drivers who do not honor the right of way can face the following consequences.

  • Four demerit points on their drivers’ licenses
  • A fine of $250 in addition to any city or municipal penalties, if the failure to yield resulted in injury
  • A fine of $500 in addition to any city or municipal penalties, if the failure to yield resulted in death

Depending on the circumstances of the accident, drivers may face additional penalties such as jail time or compensatory damages. Victims of motor vehicle collisions can claim compensation for medical expenses, property damage, lost wages, and non-economic costs.