One of the more common responses heard from motorists in Roanoke Country who have been involved in collisions with motorcyclists is that they were not aware that the motorcyclists were turning or that they were required to wait for them. Much of this may come from a misunderstanding of how motorcycles are viewed compared to other vehicles on the road. Such vehicles (and their drivers) are afforded the same rights and privileges as cars, trucks and SUVs. Sadly, confusion over allowing motorcyclists the right-of-way has cost many of them their lives. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, 4,693 motorcyclists were killed on American roads as recently as 2015.
Virginia’s laws regarding right-of-way for vehicles can be found in Sections 46.2.820-829 of the state’s legal code. The most basic of these is that when two vehicles approach an uncontrolled intersection at the same time, the vehicle on the right as always required to yield the right-of-way to the one on the left. At a “T” intersection (where a highway intersects but does not cross another), the driver approaching from the intersecting highway must yield to the those traveling along the other. The same is true for vehicles approaching a circular (roundabout) intersection.
When making a left turn off a highway, the vehicle making the turn is to yield the right-of-way to others approaching from the opposite direction if their proximity is close enough to constitute a hazard. Vehicles entering the highway from a private road are to abide by the same standard. However, it should also be noted that drivers (including motorcyclists) operating at unlawful speeds forfeit their right-of-way privileges.