A driver that approaches a yield sign has an important responsibility to watch for oncoming traffic. While a yield sign, unlike a stop sign, does not require a mandatory stop, nonetheless a motorist has to be prepared to make a stop. A driver who fails to stop and hits oncoming traffic will be held responsible by Ohio law and depending on any prior record of traffic infractions, could incur a serious misdemeanor.
Ohio law explains that drivers who approach a yield sign are to slow their approach to a reasonable speed considering the surrounding conditions. The vehicle should be prepared to stop for traffic that has the right of way. If not able to stop at a conspicuously marked line or a crosswalk, the vehicle should at least halt before crossing over into the intersecting road. The motorist must wait until the intersecting road is free of traffic that would pose an imminent collision hazard before proceeding.
State law also makes it clear that a vehicle that does not stop on a yield sign bears fault for colliding with traffic that has the right of way. Ohio law considers a collision between a vehicle that did not stop at a yield sign and right of way traffic as “prima-facie evidence” of the guilt of the offending motorist. This means that unless the accident can be proven to have occurred under different conditions, the violation of a yield sign’s stop provision will be considered evidence of guilt on its face.
Ohio law goes on to explain that a person who violates the stop provision of a yield sign will generally be guilty of a minor misdemeanor. However, if the motorist had also received a conviction for a single traffic offense or motor vehicle violation within the past year, the yield violation is bumped up to a fourth degree misdemeanor. Additionally, a motorist with multiple traffic offenses within the past year will likely be charged with a third degree misdemeanor. Motorists can also receive additional fines if they were distracted while driving and the distraction served to instigate the yield violation.
The consequences of not heeding oncoming traffic at a yield sign can result in damage to another motorist’s vehicle as well as injuries which can range from minor to possibly life threatening. In addition to penalties under law, an injury victim can sue the motorist who violated the yield sign's stop provision for damages. Keep in mind that since motor vehicle accidents happen for many different reasons, this article should be read as general information and not as legal counsel.