Posted by Mark Matney of Matney Law PLLC Newport News VA
The specific language of Virginia Code Section 46.2-863, Failure to Yield Right-of- Way, must be
examined when defending against this charge.
If the location is not governed by a “Yield Right-of- Way” sign, then to achieve a conviction
under this code section the Commonwealth must prove four specific elements:
1. The driver entered a “highway.”
2. The driver entered the highway “from a side road.”
3. The driver did not “bring his vehicle to a stop immediately before entering [the]
4. Traffic was approaching “within 500 feet” of the location where the driver was entering
The driver cannot be found guilty of the charge if any of the requirements is missing.
If the driver is not entering onto a highway or is approaching a highway sign, then a different
code section may apply. For example, Virginia Code Section 46.2-864 governs reckless driving
in a parking lot and Virginia Code Section 46.2-821 controls yielding when approaching a stop
sign or yield sign on a highway.
If the driver stopped before proceeding, or if there is no witness to whether the defendant
stopped before proceeding, then the evidence would be insufficient for a conviction.
It is also critical that the Commonwealth prove that the driver pulled out when another vehicle
was within 500 feet. I recently argued a case in which the police officer demonstrated each of
the first three requirements, but was unable to estimate the distance between the oncoming
vehicle and the client’s vehicle at the time the client pulled onto the road. The judge dismissed
the charge for lack of this essential evidence.
Relevant Code Sections:
Virginia Code § 46.2-863. Failure to Yield Right-of- Way.
A person shall be guilty of reckless driving who fails to bring his vehicle to a stop immediately
before entering a highway from a side road when there is traffic approaching on such highway
within 500 feet of such point of entrance, unless (i) a “Yield Right-of- Way” sign is posted or (ii)
where such sign is posted, fails, upon entering such highway, to yield the right-of- way to the
driver of a vehicle approaching on such highway from either direction.
Virginia Code §46.2-821. Vehicles before entering certain highways shall stop or yield right-of-
The driver of a vehicle approaching an intersection on a highway controlled by a stop sign shall,
immediately before entering such intersection, stop at a clearly marked stop line, or, in the
absence of a stop line, stop before entering the crosswalk on the near side of the intersection,
or, in the absence of a marked crosswalk, stop at the point nearest the intersecting roadway
where the driver has a view of approaching traffic on the intersecting roadway. Before
proceeding, he shall yield the right-of- way to the driver of any vehicle approaching on such
other highway from either direction.
Where a "Yield Right-of- Way" sign is posted, the driver of a vehicle approaching or entering
such intersection shall slow down to a speed reasonable for the existing conditions, yield the
right-of- way to the driver of another vehicle approaching or entering such intersection from
another direction, and, if required for safety, shall stop at a clearly marked stop or yield line, or,
in the absence of a stop or yield line, stop before entering the crosswalk on the near side of the
intersecting roadway where the driver has a view of approaching traffic on the intersecting
roadway, and shall yield the right-of- way to the driver of any vehicle approaching on such other
highway from either direction.
§ 46.2-100. Definitions.
"Highway" means the entire width between the boundary lines of every way or place open to
the use of the public for purposes of vehicular travel in the Commonwealth, including the
streets and alleys, and, for law-enforcement purposes, (i) the entire width between the
boundary lines of all private roads or private streets that have been specifically designated
"highways" by an ordinance adopted by the governing body of the county, city, or town in
which such private roads or streets are located and (ii) the entire width between the boundary
lines of every way or place used for purposes of vehicular travel on any property owned, leased,
or controlled by the United States government and located in the Commonwealth.