Right Of Way Definition and Legal Meaning

On this page, you'll find the legal definition and meaning of Right Of Way, written in plain English, along with examples of how it is used.

What is Right Of Way?

(n) Right of way is the specific directions, regulations, conditions stipulated for the user of a pathway or road while using such road or pathway for commuting

History and Meaning of Right Of Way

Right of way (ROW) is an ancient legal right that designates the privilege of certain individuals, vehicles, or vessels to proceed first and uninterrupted through an area, while other actors involved in the same activity are required to hold back or step aside. ROW is provided for the purposes of promoting safety, efficiency, and ensuring the orderly movement of people and goods in a designated transport network. The specific directions, regulations, and conditions governing ROW may vary depending on the kind of transport network or pathway in question, as well as the spatial and sociocultural context in which they are implemented.

Overall, ROW refers to the legal and ethical precepts that regulate the passage of individuals or groups within a given area, as well as the obligations that such actors owe to the surrounding environment.

Examples of Right Of Way

  1. A pedestrian has the right of way at a crosswalk, which means that all vehicles, including bicycles, must stop to allow them to cross the street safely.
  2. Emergency vehicles, such as fire trucks and ambulances, have the right of way when their flashing lights and siren are engaged, meaning all other vehicles should safely pull to the side to allow them to pass.
  3. In maritime law, large commercial vessels have the right of way over smaller vessels since they are less maneuverable, and a collision between a large and small vessel can result in much more devastating consequences.

Legal Terms Related to Right Of Way

Here are some terms that are similar to ROW:

  1. Easement: An easement is a legal right that allows another person or entity to use someone's property in a specific way, such as accessing a shared driveway or crossing through a private land to access another destination.
  2. Access control: Access control is the practice of restricting entry and exit to a particular area or facility for security purposes.
  3. Traffic laws: Traffic laws regulate the safe and efficient movement of vehicles on public roadways, including rules for right of way at intersections and other traffic situations.