Knowing when to give away the right of way allows traffic to move safely and smoothly. Although entrenched in law, the rules regarding right of way are actually based on courtesy and common sense, and if obeyed, can reduce the likelihood of traffic accidents.

Summary of Minnesota’s right-of-way laws

The following is a summary of right of way laws in Minnesota and understand how knowing these laws will help you share the road safely.


  • If two vehicles get to an intersection at just about the same time, the vehicle that gets there first has the right of way. If you are unsure or stopped at the same time, the vehicle on the right has the right of way.

  • If you want to turn left, you have to yield to any oncoming traffic.

  • Green arrows tell you that you can cross left across traffic, but you still have to yield to any traffic that is already in the intersection.

  • If you are coming onto a public road from a driveway or private road, any vehicle or pedestrian that is in the public road has the right of way.

Emergency vehicles

  • Emergency vehicles without exception, have the right of way if they are sounding their sirens and flashing their lights. Regardless of what traffic signals are telling you, you must stop for emergency vehicles and they are entitled to go through red lights.

  • If you violate this right-of-way law, you can be arrested for up to four hours after the offense has occurred.


  • Pedestrians always have the right of way, even if they are violating the law. This is because they are vulnerable. They can be fined the same as a motorist for failing to yield the right of way, but motorist are always responsible to prevent an accident.

Common misconceptions about Minnesota’s right-of-way laws

One of the biggest misconceptions that motorists in Minnesota have about right-of-way laws relates to funeral processions. If you pull over to honor a funeral procession, you may tell yourself that you are a wonderful and compassionate soul who knows how to do the right thing. But did you know that you also just did a legal thing?

In Minnesota, pulling over for a funeral cortege isn’t just common courtesy – it is actually the law, and failure to do so makes you liable to the same fines and penalties as any other moving violation. You have to yield the right of way to funeral processions at all times and allow them passage through intersections even when the light is in your favor. It’s the law.

Penalties for failure to yield

In Minnesota, there is no points system, so you will not have to think about demerits being attached to your license for failure to yield. You will, however, be subject to a fine of $50 for each violation, and a $78 surcharge if you go to court.

For further information, consult the Minnesota Driver's Manual, pages 39-41.

This article originally appeared on as The Guide to Right-of-Way Laws in Minnesota and was authored by Valerie Johnston.

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