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Stop Sign

How To Handle a 4-Way Stop

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Although most people learned about the various road signs they might encounter prior to getting their drivers license for the first time, the 4-way stop seems to be an endless source of confusion for motorists. If you’ve ever gotten to the stop sign and weren’t quite sure who really had the right of way, you may want to refresh your memory before getting back out on the road.

4-Way Stop Procedure

Generally speaking, you’ll treat a 4-way stop just as you would any other stop sign you encounter on the road. Even if no one else appears to be around, it’s still necessary to come to a full stop and look both ways before you pass the stop sign. This doesn’t mean you can come to a rolling stop or simply pass through the intersection at a lower speed. Anything short of a complete stop for a few seconds and you risk a ticket if caught.

Also, remember that you’re technically supposed to stop before the painted crosswalk lines on the street, not the edge of the intersection. Be sure to come to a full stop before you get to the crosswalk. If your line of sight is blocked from this location, you can slowly proceed forward through the crosswalk to get a better view before you enter the intersection.

Multiple Car Procedure

Things get a little trickier once multiple cars are on the scene. In this instance, pay attention to who reaches the intersection and comes to a full stop first. This is the motorist who has the right of way and should be allowed to proceed first. When both vehicles reach the intersection at the same time, right of way goes to the driver on the far right.

Regardless of whether you have the right of way or not, always pause a moment before you blindly go through the intersection. Since not all motorists know – or care – about the rules of the road, it’s always advisable to yield the right of way to the motorist clearly not paying attention to whose turn it is than to get into a fender bender.

Dead Signal Lights

Stop signs aren’t technically the only time you’ll have to deal with the 4-way stop scenario. Anytime you approach a traffic signal that’s blinking red in all directions or experiencing a power outage, you’ll treat it as a 4-way stop sign and follow the above procedures. Since you’ll likely encounter a line of vehicles in all four directions waiting to cross, be sure to observe the existing pattern of which lanes cross together.

If you’re in the left turn lane at a four-way stop, you’ll technically turn when the vehicles in the lanes to your right cross the intersection. This can breakdown somewhat if you’re the first car in the turn lane. When it’s your turn, proceed forward slowly and with caution, ensuring that the vehicles in the oncoming lanes realize you’re about to turn in front of them. As you would with a distracted motorist, it’s better to let oncoming traffic cross before you do than to risk getting into a head-on collision because they didn’t see you.

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