According to the New Jersey State Police’s 2021 report, there were 97 fatal accidents involving motorcyclists in that year, resulting in 99 deaths. The report identifies driver inattention as a contributing factor in one-third of these accidents.

When driving on the roadway with motorcyclists, people may wonder, when do motorcyclists have the right of way in NJ? Is it the same as for passenger cars? In this post, the Petro Cohen, P.C., team provides answers.


Do Motorcyclists Always Have the Right of Way in NJ?

Motorcyclists have the right of way on New Jersey’s roadways in the same way that other passenger cars or trucks do. In other words, the law does not give them special treatment because they are smaller and can maneuver in ways and places other vehicles cannot.

New Jersey law neither prohibits nor allows motorcyclists to engage in lane-splitting, which is when a motorcycle drives between lanes. They often do this in bumper-to-bumper traffic to bypass other vehicles or avoid risking losing their balance by staying in one place or moving slowly.

New Jersey’s traffic laws do not expressly make this practice illegal. The New Jersey Driver Manual cautions motorcyclists against riding between rows of stopped vehicles because it can result in lane sharing. Such a practice can be dangerous for motorists and motorcyclists because it does not give them an entire lane in which to operate.


How Do You Know Which Driver Has the Right of Way?

New Jersey’s traffic laws determine which driver has the right of way. The law covers a variety of situations, such as:

  • Who has the right away when the vehicle is entering or leaving the roadway?
  • Which driver has the right of way when two cars stop simultaneously at a stop sign?
  • When and how must drivers yield to emergency vehicles?
  • What are the right-of-way rules in parking lots?

The law does not distinguish between vehicles when dictating who has the right of way. Instead, the law describes when someone has the right of way based on places and situations. The exception to this is when the circumstances involve motorized bicycles, bicycles, and emergency vehicles.


When Do Motorcyclists Have the Right of Way?

So, when do motorcyclists have the right of way in New Jersey? Let’s go over a few scenarios to explain who has the right of way. Again, the motorcycle has the right of way when the law indicates they do based on the situation. For purposes of the law, it does not make a difference if the vehicle is a motorcycle or a passenger car. The exception is if the vehicle in question is an emergency vehicle, motorized bicycle, or bicycle.


At Intersections with Stop Signs

When vehicles are at a four-way stop sign intersection, the default is that whoever gets there first has the right of way (assuming there are not any obstructions or pedestrians in the intersection). It then continues in this fashion until the cars are gone.

If two vehicles stop at the stop sign at the same time, New Jersey law indicates that the motorist on the right has the right of way. Then, the vehicle on the left has the right of way, and traffic proceeds as before.


Intersections with Traffic Lights

At intersections with traffic lights, the color of the light determines who has the right of way. For example, a motorcyclist going straight with a green light has the right of way, whereas a motorcyclist with a red light does not. When making left turns when oncoming traffic also has a green light, vehicles must yield to oncoming traffic and refrain from making the turn until it is clear and safe to do so.


Entering and Leaving Roadway

When entering and leaving roadways, the vehicle must yield to other cars in motion and pedestrians on the streets and sidewalks. The vehicle can enter the road only where it is clear and safe to proceed.


In Parking Lots

Parking lots have similar right-of-way rules to those of the roadway. For example, cars backing up out of a parking spot must yield to the vehicles in motion. When they stop at a stop sign in the parking lot, they must yield to oncoming cars or pedestrians, where appropriate.


Sharing the Road Safely with Motorcycles

Because of their small size and open frame compared to other vehicles on the road, motorcyclists are at a higher risk of injury and death. Two of the most important rules to follow are to see motorcyclists and to share the road. For example, motorists and motorcyclists have the right to the entire width of their traffic lane. By taking steps to see motorcyclists and share the road, we create a safer roadway for all those living and traveling in New Jersey.


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