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Freeways & Canyons Right-of-Way Rules


Right-of-Way Part 3: Understanding the Right-of-Way Rules on Freeways and Canyon Roads

In Part 1 and Part 2 of our Right-of-Way series, you learned the rules for right-of-way on residential and major streets. The California Vehicle Code states that right-of-way is "... the privilege of the immediate use of the highway." This means that if you have the right-of-way, it is your turn to use the road. In Part 3, you'll learn the right-of-way rules for freeways and canyon roads. You need to learn these rules because safety is key when driving on all roads but especially freeways and highways when you're traveling at higher speeds. Join driving instructor, Micah, as he takes you for a drive while showing the right-of-way rules while driving on freeways and canyons.

Here are some important right-of-way rules to remember while driving on the freeway:

  • Impeding someone's right-of-way is a ticketable offense and can cause an accident.
  • When entering the freeway, you need to match the speed of the traffic and find a gap before merging because traffic already on the freeway has the right of way.
  • When finding a gap, you need to S.M.O.G. or use your signal, check your mirrors, look over your shoulder, and if safe, go.
  • On a weaving or continuous on-ramp, you have the right-of-way because you have an added lane dedicated to entering and exiting the freeway.
  • When making lane changes on the freeway, you need to S.M.O.G.
  • You must yield to drivers attempting to pass you. If you see them trying to pass, don't speed up and make it difficult for them to pass.

Here are some important right-of-way rules to remember while driving in canyons:

  • Cars that are traveling downhill must yield to cars traveling uphill on narrow roads where it is unsafe to pass.
  • If a car is driving below the speed limit with five or more cars behind it, the car must pull off the road at a safe turnout in order to let the faster moving traffic pass it. Make sure you S.M.O.G. when pulling off the road and S.M.O.G. again when entering back onto the canyon road.

Right-of-Way - Part 3, Video Transcript

You made it to Right-of-Way Part 3. Today we're looking at the right of way rules we need to follow on freeways and canyons.

In our previous right-of-way videos, we learned that the California Vehicle Code states that "right-of-way is the privilege of the immediate use of the highway", which basically means, right-of-way is whose turn it is to be going. We can think of right-of-way as a set of rules that, if we follow correctly, it'll stop us from getting in each other's way or impeding each other's right-of-way which could even lead to an accident, so right-of-way keeps us safe.

Now right-of-way is huge when it comes to entering the freeway because your on-ramp is most likely going to be a merging lane. A merging lane is an on-ramp or an entrance ramp to the freeway where you have to merge with existing traffic in the slow lane. We do not have the right-of-way, so to safely merge with traffic on the freeway, we want to match their speed and find a gap in traffic before we merge. Now to find that gap in traffic, we need to S.M.O.G. which stands for signal, mirrors, over the shoulder, go. It'll help us identify a safe gap in traffic before we merge into traffic on the slow lane. If we impede someone's right of way, it is a ticketable offense and could cause an accident.

Now some on-ramps or entrance ramps could be a weaving or continuous lane. Now, this is different because your on-ramp, you kind of notice," Oh, I have my own lane when I get on. I don't have to enter someone else's lane"... so if your on-ramp or entrance ramp is a weaving or continuous lane, then you have the right-of-way. We still want to be cautious though because existing traffic in the slow lane, sometimes they'll make a lane change into our weaving or continuous lane because they might want to get off at the next exit.

Now that you've safely entered the freeway, let's talk about making lane changes on the freeway. When making a lane change on the freeway, we do not have the right of way so we use S.M.O.G. That stands for signal, mirrors, over the shoulder, and then if it's clear, we can go. Some cars will be going up over the speed limit so it may require us to do multiple S.M.O.G.s before we commit to making a lane change. If a car has to brake for us or adjust their lane position, we've impeded their right-of-way. It is a ticketable offense and worse, it could lead to a severe accident because we're going so fast on the freeway.

Now if a car is passing you, we give them the right-of-way because the California Vehicle Code says that "any vehicle being passed must yield the right-of-way" so if someone's passed you on the freeway, we don't want to speed up so it's hard for us to make the lane change, as that is definitely not safe.

When 2 cars meet on a narrow incline were passing is not possible, the car traveling downhill yields to the car traveling uphill.

Now when a car is driving below the posted speed limit and has five or more cars stacked behind them, they need to pull off the road to let faster-moving traffic pass them. Pulling off the road, we want to look for the shoulder or a turnout as that usually has enough safe space to slow down, S.M.O.G., and then pull off the road to let faster-moving traffic pass us. Now when you're ready to leave the turnout or shoulder, we want to do another S.M.O.G. to make sure there is a safe gap in traffic before we leave the shoulder or turnout.

Now before we go, let's do a quick review. When entering the freeway, it's important to ask ourselves, what kind of entrance or on-ramp do we have? Is it a merging lane where we don't have the right of way so we match speed and S.M.O.G. before merging? Or is it a weaving, continuous lane where we kind of get on and have our own lane where we should have the right of way? When we make lane changes on the freeway, we don't have the right of way, and we S.M.O.G. before we make a lane change. And when we're being passed on the freeway, we give the right of way to the cars passing us.

In a canyon, on a very narrow road, cars traveling downhill yield traveling uphill and when a car is driving in a canyon below the speed limit and they have five or more cars stacked up behind him, they need to pull off the road to let faster-moving traffic pass them. Thank you for watching Right-of-Way Part 3 and we look forward to seeing you in the next video!