Suppose you pull up to an intersection and you want to make a turn, but there's a parking lot next to you that feeds out onto the same street you're trying to turn onto, or you're trying to pull out of a parking lot that is beside another that feeds onto the same street. Basically, if you have two cars that are pretty much side by side, who has the right of way? Who gets to go first?

Who has the right of way?

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    @JustinLardinois, in the US, the Uniform Vehicle Code is a standard set of driving laws that is (mostly) common across states. That said, this is probably one of the edge cases that varies from state to state.
    – Mark
    Commented May 28, 2015 at 7:56
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    It would also be helpful if you could provide a drawing to visualize the circumstances you're talking about - I'm having trouble doing it. But in general, a parking lot exit is rarely ever considered a "road" and usually follows the same rules as backing out of ones driveway at home - the person yields to all other traffic.
    – animuson
    Commented May 28, 2015 at 14:50
  • @animuson I've added some illustrations.
    – ShemSeger
    Commented May 28, 2015 at 22:35
  • The left car only has to turn on the first lane, the right car has to turn and cross to the second lane. My guess, the left car has right of way? (If you need to cross somebody's lane, you should yield).
    – kevin
    Commented May 29, 2015 at 13:17
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    @ShemSeger when turning right at an intersection, I should yield to traffic on the left. Therefore in the case where both cars turn right, the left car has right of way (the right car should yield to the left car).
    – kevin
    Commented May 29, 2015 at 14:02

3 Answers 3


Interesting question! I believe all of the examples can be addressed by the following rules:

  1. A vehicle on a roadway has the right-of-way over a vehicle not on a roadway. Therefore, the vehicle leaving a parking lot always yields to a vehicle in a parallel road.
  2. Absent another rule, the vehicle on the right always has the right-of-way. So if two vehicles are leaving adjacent parking lots, the left one waits for the right one to go if there is any potential conflict.

Of course, not enough people know these rules, so in practice if you can't get the vehicle with the legal right-of-way to take it I teach drivers to be as decisive and cautious as possible: I.e., take the right-of-way, but not so fast that you can't avoid the other vehicle if it decides to go after all, because legally you will be at fault in a collision. (Though it's anyone's guess how police and insurers would settle the tricky scenarios you illustrate.)


This answer is correct to the best of my knowledge, but IANAL/TINLA.

Since in all scenarios, neither vehicle is yet on the horizontal road, neither has the right of way. Nor do they share a "common intersection" to which the intersection right of way rules can be applied.

Therefore, the first vehicle to enter the horizontal road will find itself in a position where it is on that road, and the other vehicle is not. At this point, the first rule from feetwet's answer applies, with a very slight modification:

A vehicle on a roadway has the right-of-way over a vehicle not on a roadway that roadway.

In practice, though, the best course of action is to communicate with the other driver (e.g. via hand signals, etc.) and reach an agreement as to who will go first, and then for the other driver to yield to that driver.


The general rule is that when entering a roadway the vehicle entering the roadway should yield to oncoming traffic unless that vehicle is an emergency response vehicle (Fire engine, ambulance, police car) that is responding to an emergency call(IE with lights and sirens going). This is true regardless of if the parking lot is in the middle of a block or adjacent to an intersection. The exception would be if there is some sort of traffic control device in place.

However it is often enforced that if the oncoming vehicle should have been able to reduce speed to avoid a collision with the merging vehicle that oncoming vehicle will often be cited for for failure to reduce speed. This will vary by jurisdiction though.

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