What Are the Right-of-Way Laws in Wisconsin?

Wisconsin, like every other state, has right-of-way laws that govern how motor vehicles move through intersections. These laws, also called the “rules of the road,” help traffic move safely and prevent accidents. 

Right-of-way laws in Wisconsin outline how to approach intersections, turns, stops, pedestrians, and other proper highway etiquette. If you fail to properly yield right-of-way to others, you’re driving aggressively and breaking the law. Failure to abide by right-of-way laws can result in major accidents involving both property damage and bodily injury. 

If you are involved in a traffic accident caused by failure to yield right-of-way, Boller & Vaughan can help. Our team of Madison personal injury lawyers know Wisconsin law and know how to effectively represent your interests in any personal injury claim. 

Call 608-268-0268 or contact the Boller & Vaughan office online and learn how our attorneys can help you receive the compensation you deserve.

Right-of-Way Laws in Wisconsin

The following right-of-way laws help illustrate common situations that drivers may find themselves in when there are no traffic signs or lights to control the flow of traffic. They also explain who must yield the right-of-way and to whom. It’s important to note that the laws state who must yield the right-of-way. It does not give anyone the right-of-way. 

These laws can be found on the Wisconsin Department of Transportation website, Wisconsin state law, and in the most recent edition of the Wisconsin Department of Transportation Motorists’ Handbook.

General rules at intersections

  • Except when otherwise stated, when two vehicles approach or enter an intersection at approximately the same time, the driver on the left should yield right-of-way to the driver on the right. 
  • If you are the first vehicle to arrive at a four-way stop, stop completely and then proceed. If you are unsure whether you are the first vehicle to arrive, yield the right-of-way to the vehicle on your right.
  • If you are at an intersection and intend to turn left or make a U-turn, you must yield the right-of-way to any vehicle approaching from the opposite direction. 

Highways, main roads, and roundabouts

  • If you are entering a road from a driveway, alley, or roadside, you should yield to vehicles already on the main road.
  • You must yield right-of-way to traffic already in a roundabout, traffic circle, or rotary.
  • You must yield to cross traffic if you are on a dead-end roadway.
  • If you are parked and preparing to leave your space, you should yield right-of-way to all vehicles approaching.

Pedestrian laws

  • If you are crossing a sidewalk from an alley, driveway or parking lot, you must yield right-of-way to pedestrians and traffic in the alley, driveway, parking lot, or road.
  • When making a right turn on a red light, you should yield right-of-way to pedestrians and bicyclists within a crosswalk.
  • You must yield to pedestrians who are crossing the road to avoid hitting them, even if they are crossing unsafely and/or illegally.

Emergency vehicles and animals

  • When you see or hear an emergency vehicle approaching from any direction, you must yield the right-of-way. Pull over to the right edge of the road or as near to the right as possible and stop. 
  • If an emergency vehicle is on the other side of a divided highway, you do not need to pull over and stop.
  • In Wisconsin, it’s common to see people riding horses or driving animal-drawn vehicles. They have the same rights and duties as motorists. You should yield right-of-way to livestock on or along the road. 

Penalties for Violating Right-of-Way 

If a driver operates a vehicle at an unlawful speed, that driver forfeits their right-of-way. In other words, even if another driver fails to yield right-of-way, it is the speeding driver who is responsible for the accident. Wisconsin law states that a motorist “driving at an unlawful speed forfeits any right-of-way which he or she would otherwise have under this subsection.”

The penalties for violating right-of-way laws in Wisconsin vary. Depending on the nature of the incident, punishment may include a fine of $20 to $1,000 as well as points on your license, or even suspension of driving privileges. You may also have to complete a right-of-way course at a training school or by an approved safety organization.

However, if the right-of-way violation results in serious injuries or death, there can be criminal penalties and/or civil liability for the driver who caused the accident. This means that the injured person or persons, or their surviving family members in the case of a fatal accident, can file a lawsuit against the driver who is responsible for causing the accident.

Contact a Wisconsin Personal Injury Attorney Today

If you or a loved one has been involved in an accident stemming from failure to yield right-of-way, you may be able to file a claim for damages, or financial compensation. The Boller & Vaughan team are experienced and well-versed in Wisconsin’s right-of-way laws. Our personal injury attorneys can determine if another driver is responsible and whether you should pursue your case.

Call our Madison office at 608-268-0268 to schedule a free initial consultation with one of our attorneys today. You can also follow the Boller & Vaughan Facebook page, or fill out an online contact form to get started.


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