In certain circumstances, people assume that larger vehicles must yield the right of way to smaller vehicles, such as motorcycles. In Florida, however, that’s not the case. Many states do have laws like that, but in the Sunshine State, motorcycles are treated just like any other vehicle on the road. Motorcycles do not automatically have the right of way, and must instead obey the same traffic laws as all other vehicles.
Unfortunately, the risks of any motorist’s failure to yield the right of way fall especially heavily on motorcyclists. A right-of-way motorcycle accident can be deadly. In fact, failure to yield the right of way contributes to the cause of more than 7 percent of all fatal motorcycle crashes nationwide every year, according to the Insurance Information Institute.
If you or a loved one suffered injuries in a motorcycle accident, you may wonder if another motorist’s failure to yield caused your injuries, and if so, if that motorist (or someone else) may owe you compensation. To find out, read the blog below, and then speak (for free) with an experienced and trusted motorcycle accident injury lawyer about your rights and options.
Florida’s Right of Way Laws
The State Uniform Traffic Control Statute governs travel on Florida roadways. The statute contains various provisions that cover different situations people encounter while driving, including who has the right of way at various locations on the road. Those rules apply to all motorists, drivers of cars, trucks, and motorcycles alike.
Let’s take a look at what the statute says about yielding the right of way in some common driving scenarios. For those interested in reading further, each heading below links to the applicable Florida statutory section.
At Uncontrolled Intersections and Intersections with Traffic Control Devices
When two vehicles arrive at an intersection with no stop signs or a four-way stop at the same time, “the driver of the vehicle on the left shall yield the right-of-way to the vehicle on the right”. A motorcycle does not automatically have the right of way in this circumstance.
At an intersection with a yield, the vehicle subject to the yield must yield the right of way to any vehicle approaching on the road into which the first vehicle intends to merge.
At an intersection with stop signs on one road, but not the other, the stopped vehicle must yield the right of way to any vehicle in or about to enter the intersection on the road that has no stop sign.
Where a state road intersects with a lesser (county, municipal, or private) paved or unpaved road, and the intersection does not have a stop sign or traffic light, the right of way belongs to vehicles on the state road.
Where a county road intersects with a lesser (municipal or private) unpaved road, the right of way belongs to vehicles on the county road.
When Turning Left
Many motorcycle accidents occur in circumstances when one of the vehicles involved turns left across an opposing lane of traffic, either at an intersection or on a two-lane road at the entrance to, say, a shopping center or private driveway.
In Florida, the driver intending to turn left must yield the right of way to oncoming traffic. He must also yield to any traffic legally approaching and passing him on his left, assuming it’s legal for the passing vehicle to do so.
When Entering Road From a Private Road/Driveway/Alley/Building
The vehicle entering a roadway from a private road, driveway, alley, or building (such as a parking garage) must yield the right of way to “all vehicles approaching on the highway to be entered which are so close thereto as to constitute an immediate hazard.”
The vehicle must also stop before crossing any sidewalk to reach the roadway and yield the right of way to any pedestrian or vehicle (such as a bicycle or mobility scooter) on it.
When Near Pedestrians (With or Without Crosswalks)
Pedestrians have obligations to cross or walk along roads in the safest manner, but Florida law is clear that “every driver of a vehicle shall exercise due care to avoid colliding with any pedestrian” and anyone else riding a human-powered vehicle like a bike or a skateboard.
When Sharing the Road with Emergency, Sanitation, or Utility Vehicles
Vehicles, including motorcycles, must pull over to the right and stop when an emergency vehicle with lights or sirens approaches in either direction and wait there until the emergency vehicle has passed.
Vehicles must also move over to the left as far as practicable or slow down to no more than 20 miles per hour when passing an emergency, sanitation, or utility vehicle stopped at the side of the road.
In most instances, motor vehicles on Florida roads must also yield the right of way to:
- Construction workers and construction vehicles
- Oncoming traffic when an obstruction blocks a travel lane and forces vehicles to drive in the opposing lane to get around it
- Public transit vehicles reentering traffic, such as a bus leaving a bus stop
- Funeral processions
How Motorcycle Right of Way Accidents Happen
Everyone who operates a vehicle on a Florida road must do their best to comply with the right of way rules above. Unfortunately, as all-too-many bikers know, drivers of cars and trucks often disregard those rules when it comes to sharing the road with a motorcycle. Let’s take a look at how some of those accidents happen.
Drivers Don’t See Motorcycles
Many motorcycle accidents involving a failure to yield the right of way happen when the driver of a car or truck simply does not see the motorcycle that has the right of way and drives right into that motorcycle’s path.
Motorcycles are harder to see than other vehicles. They have a smaller visual profile and take up less space on the road. Drivers can, and sadly do, not see motorcycles ahead of them or in their mirrors, especially when battling challenging driving conditions like sun glare, fog, rain, or heavy traffic.
This is one reason why it’s often a safe move for motorcyclists to wear bright, reflective clothing and to ensure they have working headlights and taillights to enhance their bike’s visibility.
Sometimes, too, drivers of passenger vehicles and trucks see motorcycles without actually seeing them. As some motorcyclists have learned in near-misses and actual collisions, a driver can look right at you approaching your motorcycle and not seem to register that you’re there at all. You’d swear they looked you right in the eye and yet they still turned right in front of you. There’s a scientific explanation for this dangerous phenomenon.
Psychologists call it inattentional blindness, and it occurs when a person’s brain fails to register the presence of an object—like a motorcycle—that the person does not expect to see at that moment. Tired or distracted motorists, in particular, may suffer from inattentional blindness and put motorcyclists at risk for deadly accidents.
Drivers Think They Have the Right of Way Over Motorcycles
In other accidents involving a driver’s failure to yield the right of way to a motorcycle, the problem involves the driver’s misunderstanding of the law. That misunderstanding might not have anything to do with motorcycles (for instance, a driver thinking the vehicle to the right must yield to the vehicle on the left at an intersection), or it might reflect a misconception about the rights of motorcyclists (such as a driver trying to pass a motorcycle in the motorcycle’s lane).
Unfortunately, these mistakes can have deadly consequences for motorcyclists, who have every right to expect that other motorists understand the rules of the road. It’s not a motorcyclist’s fault that a driver doesn’t know that motorcycles have the right to occupy a full travel lane, but the motorcyclist will almost always bear the brunt of the harm from that driver’s ignorance.
Drivers Disrespect Motorcyclists
Finally, some motorcycle accidents involving a car or truck failing to yield the right of way reflect a callous and even intentional disregard for the rights and safety of motorcyclists. As any experienced right knows, drivers of cars and trucks sometimes treat them like second-class citizens. These drivers engage in inexcusably dangerous behaviors, like high speed passing at close range, tailgating, erratic driving, and road-raging, when sharing the road with motorcyclists.
As above, it’s the motorcyclists who pay the price for that particular brand of recklessness. Petty disregard for a motorcyclist’s safety by a car or truck driver can easily lead to a collision that ends a motorcyclist’s life.
Steps to Take After a Right of Way-Related Motorcycle Accident
Bikers who suffer injuries in accidents caused by someone else failing to yield the right of way have rights. Under Florida law (and the laws of every other state), the party that fails to yield right of way and causes a motorcycle accident will generally owe damages to anyone injured as a result.
Aftermath a right-of-way accident, injured motorcyclists can preserve and protect those rights.
Get Medical Care Right Away, Even if You Feel Okay
Always take a motorcycle wreck seriously by seeking medical care right away, even if you think you avoided an injury. Some motorcycle accident injuries may not show symptoms right away but could get a lot worse if not discovered and treated immediately. Other motorcycle accident injuries, like road rash, can pose a serious infection risk if not tended to by a trained medical professional.
Also, it’s almost always a mistake for a motorcycle accident victim, even one who thinks he avoided serious injury, to “tough it out” or accept aches and pains as part of riding. Even if an injury might heal on its own, a doctor must document that injury to preserve and later prove your right to compensation.
Contact an Experienced Motorcycle Accident Injury Lawyer
After attending to immediate medical needs, make a skilled motorcycle accident injury lawyer the next person you call. An initial consultation with a lawyer is always free, and if you have a case, the lawyer will virtually always agree to represent you on a contingent fee basis. You won’t have to pay any money upfront, and the lawyer only gets paid if you get paid.
Why call on a lawyer so soon? Here are just a few of the many reasons:
- The evidence relevant to proving how your right of way motorcycle accident happened, and who should bear the blame for it, can get increasingly difficult to obtain the longer you wait to talk to a lawyer. The best time to investigate an accident is immediately after it happens. An experienced lawyer can get started on that investigation right away.
- Having a lawyer on your side immediately shows insurance companies and lawyers for at-fault parties that you mean business. They will tend to take your claim seriously from the get-go if they know you have a lawyer who understands how to obtain top dollar for victims of right-of-way motorcycle accidents.
- You have enough on your plate as it is after getting hurt in a motorcycle wreck. You don’t need the added hassle of interacting with insurance companies or worrying about how you’ll pay your medical bills. Let an experienced lawyer handle those issues so that you can focus your time and energy on healing and getting back to your life.