Do’s & Don’ts of a Four Way Stop

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What is a Four Way Stop?

A four way stop is an intersection of two roads with “Stop” signs facing each of the four directions. A four way stop has rules, simple rules that should be easy to follow. However, add two to four drivers, any of whom are likely to be more concerned about where they are going than where they are and you have got a potential for disaster.

The Four Way Rule

The rule of a four way stop is after a complete stop, drivers wait for any pedestrians to cross and following the order of arrival, drivers take their turns. The driver who has been stopped the longest goes first. When two or more vehicles arrive simultaneously, drivers turning left must yield to oncoming cars, and all drivers must yield to a driver at the stop sign to their right.

How to Traverse a Four Way Stop Safely

1. Stop Completely

After coming to a complete stop, look for impediments to your intended path of travel through the intersection, such as potholes or debris in the road. Yield to any pedestrians. Use your signal to indicate a turn. If you face an oncoming car that is turning left and you fail to indicate your intention to make a right turn, you cannot expect to have the right-of-way, even if you stopped first.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]

2. Make Eye Contact

Because any vehicle could potentially prevent any other vehicle from getting through an intersection, every interaction is a negotiation. Try to make eye contact, or at least see the other driver’s face. If they do not seem to be aware of your presence you should use extra caution.

3. Take Your Turn

Once you have stopped, no pedestrians are in the crosswalk, there is no stopped driver at the stop sign to your right and no oncoming car (in instances where you are turning left)- it is your turn. At this point only an apparent hazard should prevent you from crossing the intersection.

Do not allow courtesy to decide who goes first. Drivers who wave other drivers on when they should be taking their turn only cause confusion. However, if another driver makes eye contact with you and waves you on to go, you should go. This may be disruptive, but they have given every indication that they intend to wait for you to go. Insisting that they go first will only block traffic for longer than is necessary.

Danger Has the Right-of-Way

If another driver does not play by the rules, don’t challenge them. Some drivers won’t even consider the rules of intersections. Some will just blow through stop signs if they think they can get away with it. Others will fail to notice you or other drivers at the intersection. Do not challenge drivers who fail to wait for their turn to go. Chances are, they will become angry, further impairing their already poor judgment. Allow the hazardous situation to dissolve before attempting to drive through it.


  • Assume the driver who doesn’t make eye contact doesn’t see you. Use extra caution.
  • Do not trust turn signals. The driver may have activated their turn signal by mistake, or they may have forgotten to cancel it after their last turn.
  • Use your hazard lights if you have to deviate from your chosen path due to potholes, debris or any other hazard.

Finally, always err on the side of caution. And remember that driving is about arriving alive, it is not proving points on driving etiquette.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

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