Suppose I want to make a turn, but other cars going straight have right-of-way. To be more precise, this applies to situations like:

  1. I'm making a left turn across a lane of incoming traffic, in the absence of stop signs or traffic lights
  2. I'm at a lighted intersection where I have a green light (unprotected left turn) and oncoming traffic also has a green light to continue straight
  3. I'm making a right turn into a lane where existing traffic in that lane is continuing straight

Under normal circumstances, it is my responsibility to go only when it is safe to do so, considering the distance of incoming cars and their speed. When it is safe, it is also my responsibility to actually go, to avoid blocking traffic behind me.

My question: should I turn or not when the incoming traffic comes close to me and stops (or dramatically slows down enough for me to go), even though they have right of way? This scenario actually happens to me, either because the other driver is confused or just being nice.

One possibility: by stopping, are they relinquishing right-of-way and I should go, to avoid blocking traffic behind me. However I have never learned of such a rule where right-of-way is given up by stopping or slowing down.

The other possibility: they maintain right-of-way regardless. In this case, if I decide to go and then they suddenly accelerate and crash into me (e.g., for insurance fraud), am I at fault for being in the way? Even if they shouldn't have accelerated into me, realistically speaking, in the absence of dashcams, is a traffic officer likely to believe my story that they "let me go," versus the more common scenario of me going when it isn't safe? Of course this depends on the officer and situation, but the possibility of being "framed" bothers me.

According to Nolo:

A car making a left turn is almost always liable for a collision with a car coming straight in the other direction. Exceptions to this near-automatic rule are rare and difficult to prove, but they can occur if:

The three listed reasons do not include the scenario in this question, which to me, appears to be an exceptionally easy avenue for insurance fraud.

I live in California, but I'm interested in general advice for this situation throughout the United States.

  • 3
    The oncoming car is not yielding the right of way (a good and necessary thing); he is relinquishing the right of way (a confusing and dangerous thing)
    – DJohnM
    Dec 23, 2021 at 7:15

1 Answer 1


Generally traffic laws require you to yield the right-of-way to oncoming traffic when making a left turn on a two-way street. So that means that you must wait until it's safe to turn left. If you turn left and an oncoming car hits you, then it will appear as if you did not yield as required and caused the accident. You're liable.

Now the situation may be more complicated if an oncoming vehicle appears to yield to you. You can choose to proceed or you can choose to wait. In your case you choose to proceed and if there is no incident, life goes on.

But you posed the hypothetical that the oncoming driver appears to yield but in fact doesn't or intentionally speeds up after you begin your turn and there is a collision.

So legally speaking the oncoming driver is at fault because intentionally causing an accident, nearly everywhere, is illegal. But how do YOU prove that happened. It's going to be your word against his unless there are bystanders who witnessed it. It's going to be an uphill battle to win in this case because it appears that you are at fault. Say you had a dashcam that shows the whole thing. Would that necessarily be convincing? What if the oncoming driver says he wasn't yielding but rather just slowing down because he thought you might cut in front of him? See the problems?

My best advice is to avoid putting yourself in such a position in the first place.

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