Who Has The Right Of Way At A Four Way Stop?

by Elaine SmithApril 24, 2023

When it comes to driving, there's nothing quite like the confusion that arises at a four-way stop. You've probably found yourself in this predicament: you're approaching the intersection, unsure of whose turn it is, and suddenly, everyone seems to be inching forward, cautiously testing the waters. 

If you keep reading on, you’ll get to know the ins and outs of who has the right of way at a four-way stop, leaving you with the confidence to tackle any intersection that comes your way. This article will also explore the rules governing four-way stops, common misconceptions, and some frequently asked questions.  

The Basics: Rules of the Road

Before we delve into the nuances of who has the right of way at a four-way stop, let's brush up on the fundamental principles:

  1. First come, first served: The vehicle that arrives at the stop sign first has the right of way.

  2. Yield to the right: If two vehicles arrive simultaneously, the driver on the left must yield to the driver on the right.

  3. Straight traffic has priority: If two vehicles facing each other arrive simultaneously, the one going straight has the right of way over the one turning left.

Common Misconceptions to Note

Now that we've covered the basic rules, let's address some common misconceptions about who has the right of way at a four-way stop:

  • Myth: The vehicle with the biggest size or the fastest speed has the right of way.

  • Fact: The right of way is determined by order of arrival and the position of the vehicles, not their size or speed.

  • Myth: Pedestrians must always yield to vehicles.

  • Fact: Pedestrians have the right of way when crossing at a marked or unmarked crosswalk, and vehicles must yield.

A Deeper Dive: Road Etiquette and Special Cases

Understanding the rules is just the tip of the iceberg. Let's dive deeper into some road etiquette and special cases that can make navigating a four-way stop a breeze.

The Art of Communication

Clear communication is key in preventing misunderstandings and potential accidents. Here are some helpful tips:

  • Use your turn signals to indicate your intended direction.

  • Make eye contact with other drivers to ensure mutual understanding.

  • If in doubt, give a friendly wave to indicate that you're yielding the right of way.

Special Cases: Bicycles, Emergency Vehicles, and More

  • Bicycles: Bicyclists should follow the same rules as motor vehicles, but drivers should be extra cautious and give them ample space.

  • Emergency vehicles: Always yield the right of way to emergency vehicles with flashing lights and sirens, even if you've arrived at the stop sign first.

  • Large vehicles: Be mindful of large vehicles, like buses and trucks, that may require more space and time to navigate the intersection.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What if all four vehicles arrive at the same time?

In this rare scenario, following the "yield to the right," rule is best, with each driver yielding to the vehicle on their right.

  1. What if a driver waves me through, but it's not my turn?

Proceed with caution, but be mindful of other drivers who may not be aware of the situation. Remember, courtesy and clear communication go a long way in ensuring a safe and smooth driving experience.

  1. How do I handle pedestrians at a four-way stop?

Pedestrians have the right of way at marked or unmarked crosswalks. Make eye contact and yield to them before proceeding.

  1. What if a traffic light is out at an intersection, effectively making it a four-way stop?

Treat the intersection as a four-way stop, following the same rules and right-of-way principles.

  1.  Is it legal to make a U-turn at a four-way stop?

U-turn legality varies by jurisdiction. Check local traffic laws to determine if U-turns are permitted at four-way stops in your area.

Navigating a four-way stop might seem like a daunting task, but by understanding the rules of the road and practicing good road etiquette, you'll be well-equipped to handle any intersection that comes your way. Remember that patience, communication, and courtesy are key to ensuring a safe and enjoyable driving experience for everyone involved.

Remember, the question of who has the right of way at a four-way stop is more than just about following the rules; it's about fostering a culture of mutual respect and cooperation. By doing your part to make our roads safer and more efficient, you're contributing to a better driving experience for everyone. 

Read more about the driving habits that cause car accidents in the US and other car maintenance tips to help you and your loved ones on the road.






















Managing Editor Before joining Keep Driving, Elaine was an editor for an international internet technology consulting firm. She shows tremendous interest in writing about future technologies such as Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learnings.
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