right of way, in land and air traffic and in sea navigation, rules that determine precedence in the use of traffic lanes. The rules are framed in the simplest possible terms and with nearly absolute uniformity in order to minimize the possibility of collisions. In land traffic, railroad trains, military vehicles in convoy, government vehicles (e.g., mail trucks), and emergency vehicles have the right of way over ordinary private vehicles. Rules of sea and air navigation are largely governed by international conventions and law. The term "right of way" is also applied to an easement in gross (e.g., that of a railroad). See air, law of the; maritime law.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.