right of way

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Right of way is the right to pass over or through real property owned by someone else, usually based upon an easement; also, “right-of-way.” The right of way may specify the parameters of the easement or may be a general right to pass over or through, known as a floating easement. Additionally, a right of way may be granted only for particular purposes—for example, to repair power lines or to make deliveries to the back door of a business. 

In traffic law, right of way is the right to proceed; also, “right-of-way.” Many state statutes lay out various circumstances when drivers must yield the right of way, and most states grant pedestrians the right of way. For example, California Vehicle Code § 21950 states that “[t]he driver of a vehicle shall yield the right-of-way to a pedestrian crossing the roadway within any marked crosswalk or within any unmarked crosswalk at an intersection, except as otherwise provided in this chapter.”

[Last updated in April of 2021 by the Wex Definitions Team]