Four-way stops are simple, in theory. They are specific intersections where all four directions of traffic come to a stop and then take turns proceeding through. Too often though, drivers pull up and don’t remember who should go through the intersection first. To help decrease confusion, here are four simple rules that can help you remember whose turn it is at a four-way stop.
Go in order
Since everyone knows how to take turns, the easiest scenario is when drivers come to a stop at a four-way stop at different times. When you pull up to the intersection, notice the order of arrival. The vehicle that arrives first gets to go through the intersection first. The second person to pull up to the intersection goes through second and so on.
Right goes first
If two vehicles come to a stop at the four-way stop at the same time and are side-by-side, the right-of-way goes to the person who is on the right. If you are on the left, yield to the other driver and then proceed through the intersection before anyone else who has arrived at the intersection.
Straight, then turn
Two vehicles pulling up to the intersection directly across from each other means that no one is on the right. The driver who gets the right-of-way is the driver going straight. If both are going straight, there is no need to wait since both vehicles can safely go through the intersection.
Right before left
In this last scenario, two cars pull up to the intersection, directly across the intersection from each other, at the same time. If one is signaling to go left and the other is signaling to go right, they both intend to turn into the same lane of traffic. The right-of-way goes to the driver who is turning right.
The only scenario that doesn’t fall into these four rules is if four vehicles all pull up to a four-way stop at the same time. There isn’t a rule to establish who has the right-of-way if this happens. There will usually be a driver who is more aggressive and pulls into the intersection first and everyone else should proceed carefully afterward.
Drivers should always use communication to keep themselves and others safe. Always use your signals to let everyone know which direction you are intending to turn. If there is any confusion at an intersection on who has the right-of-way, be courteous and use your hand to wave the other person through.
These four rules are laws that help to keep traffic flowing and everyone safe on the road. Don’t be so attached to the fact it is your turn to go through the intersection first that you neglect safety. Sometimes people get confused or don’t remember the correct order of who has the right-of-way. Yield to an aggressive driver and then proceed as usual. Don’t let yourself get caught up in escalating the situation into road rage. Do your best to follow the rules and you have the best chance of staying safe at four-way stops.