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simpleD's avatar

Drivers: When you arrive at a 4-way stop intersection at the same instant as other cars, do you follow the rules of right-of-way, or do you play first-come-first-go?

Asked by simpleD (3639 points ) May 18th, 2009

I’d like to follow right-of-way, but I can never remember if it’s the car on the left or the car on the right that goes first. What if there is a car at each of the four corners? It seems to come down to guessing who was there first.

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21 Answers

Allie's avatar

If you go by the first-come-first-go rule that would assume that you didn’t all arrive at the exact same moment, yes? Kidding, I know what you mean. I usually give the other person the right-of-way unless it was evident that I got there first.

Jack_Haas's avatar

It might be a misconception but it seems to me that right of way is pretty much universally accepted so I instinctively go by that… but slowly just in case.

galileogirl's avatar

I always went by “first come-first go” with the tie going to the one to your right. Four years ago I became disabled and had to go through steps to drive with the modifications. That included several hours with a professional driving instructor. He said they no longer went by the way I learned back in the 60’s. Now whoever is first into the intersection has the right-of-way. That seems completely insane to me since I drive in a big city with so many intersections and so many crazy drivers. I’m still pretty much about taking turns and when in doubt let the other guy go first.

drClaw's avatar

I follow the right of way and then cause a scene when people start waving each other and stumbling over their hand gestures. Then again I’m an asshole when it comes to driving. I guess that’s what happens when your ex-marine truck driving father teaches you the “rules” of the road.

bpeoples's avatar

I follow the “first come first go” with the person on your right taking precedence, unless someone enters the intersection first!

In Alameda, CA, at least, the “rule of thumb” seems to be whoever is on the bigger street gets to go first (and all of the intersections of big streets with big streets have lights).

Here in Pgh, people seem to negotiate it pretty well, but I’ve seen a couple of people pull the “My Escalade is bigger than your puny car, I go first”, which is fine by me. I’d rather not have them behind me =)

jca's avatar

i do first come first go if all arrive together. if not, i go by right side goes first. i only do first come first go because it seems everyone else does, sometimes even that quicker drivers go first, so i am ready with foot on gas.

reverie's avatar

I’m so glad we have roundabouts in the UK instead of these sorts of junctions! From the comments written above, they seem much less ambiguous.

Here, we always give way to the right at a roundabout, unless there’s a big enough gap, meaning you can obviously clear the path of a car approaching from your right, without causing them to stop or slow down. I guess that’s sort of “first come, first go”, but not really – you only give way to the right if there’s a car to your right either about to enter, or already on, the roundabout.

westy81585's avatar

First come first serve, if you arrived at the same time driver on the right goes. (at least that’s the law in Ohio)

casheroo's avatar

First come first serve. Usually people assume someone is going to go, so they all wait (no one wants to be hit) then people wave one, then we all take turns.

Judi's avatar

First car first, unless they come at the same time, then the driver to the right goes first.

justwannaknow's avatar

Some times that is about the same as playing “chicken” I usually wave the other guy thru. It helps avoid road rage and accidents. There are to many people that think they are in a hurry. In Chicago it seems that whoever has the biggest vehicle or worst piece of junk goes first because they feel safe or do not care.

The_Compassionate_Heretic's avatar

In CA, the rule is the driver on the right, has the right of way if two cars arrive at a 4 way simultaneously. Otherwise, it’s first come, first go.
Sometimes you just end up having to wave someone through if there’s doubt. Having the right of way is little consolation when you’re staring at a dinged up fender.

Yetanotheruser's avatar

All the states I lived in, the rules of the road are similar on a 4-way stop or unmarked intersection. First-come, first go; if you arrive at the same time, yield to vehicle approaching from your right.

The State of Illinois Rules of the Road, for example contains the following entry:

“All-Way Stop
This sign means there are four STOP signs at the intersection. Traffic from all directions must stop. The first driver to stop is the first driver to go. Other drivers must wait their turn. (emphasis added) You also may see 3-WAY, 5-WAY or ALL-WAY signs.”

MrItty's avatar

Tie goes to not-me. I will never attempt to take the right of way from someone at a 4-way stop, because I don’t trust them to acknowledge that I’ve taken it. I don’t care if he’s on the right, left, or straight ahead. If there’s even the smallest question of who arrived at the intersection first, I wave the other guy on. I can wait the extra 5–10 seconds.

simpleD's avatar

Thanks for the great answers. I’ll go with the majority: first-come-first-go, yield to the right in case of a tie.

I stopped waiving people on when my last Drivers Safety Course instructor explained that if you waive someone on, you’re telling them it’s safe to proceed. If a car comes out of nowhere and hits them, they can sue you.

SuperMouse's avatar

I follow the first to arrive = first to go plan. If two cars arrive at the same time, the car on the right goes first. However, I must note that most people do not seem to follow these rules and a great majority of them wave me on to go first no matter where I am. I always shake my head and take their turn.

cmerc42's avatar

Oddly enough, in Massachusetts at least, the right-of-way law at a 4-way stop intersection is first-come-first-go. The right-of-way principle is similar to that of a rotary, in that the first car to the rotary has the right to proceed first, then the second car, then the third, etc. This is what creates the zipper effect that rotaries (and 4-way stops, by extension) were designed for.

This should apply to all states, as I doubt the right-of-way laws are different in different states (though if it were different, I wouldn’t be surprised). Either way, a call to your local police department (or a trip by the police dept. to pick up a driver’s manual) would definitively provide a solution that is specific to your area.

Kraigmo's avatar

When 4 cars approach a 4-way stop at the exact same moment… then yes there is unavoidable confusion because there is no standard right-of-way for that. But this rarely happens.

What usually occurs, is 2 drivers coming to the Stop at the exact same time. The one on the right has the right of way. And it’s actually quite rude for people who do have the right of way to suddenly try and yield that right of way to someone else. It causes unnecessary confusion, danger, and delay.

When approaching a stop sign, Drivers have a responsibility to look at each car that is already there, and to calculate when it’s their turn to go. And when it is their turn… to go! with no delay! If a person with a right-of-way pauses out of confusion, or out of a misplaced courtesy, he only causes trouble and confusion for everyone.

When a Driver has a right-of-way at a stop, he should take it the very minute the car oppossing him has almost passed through the intersection. Don’t wait for him to clear the intersection… just immediately go, once his car is past your car. This creates an interlocking zipper effect, and it’s how stop signs are supposed to work.

People who pause, or yield the right-of-way to others throw a monkeywrench into the whole pattern.

Another problem is Drivers who try to pace the Stop Sign in a manner similar to pacing Traffic Lights. Since that driver was not in an orderly line of cars waiting… but instead pacing his approach, it makes it much harder to tell when his actual stop occurs. It’s best to zoom right up to the car in front of you, then proceed forward, car by car. Pacing the Stop Sign is very misguided.

And complete Stops are very important, when dealing with others at a crowded Stop Sign intersection. It makes it very clear at what point your stop occurred. Although if you clearly and unambiguously have the right-of-way, a California style stop can be safer, because it shows the other driver that you know it’s your turn, and you are going. It prevents that awkward stalemate that occurs when someone gets confused.

Val123's avatar

I plan ahead. Basically, the rule that people recognize, even subconsciously, is whose ever wheels stop turning completely first has, therefore, reached the sign first. So, when I see that situation developing I do one of two things: If I’m the one closest to the stop sign, I’ll scurry up to it and stop before he does, even if it means I stop a bit further back from the sign than I normally would. The goal is to get my wheels stopped first, no matter, really, where it is in relation to the stop sign (within reason) at least a couple of seconds before I anticipate they will. As long as the other person’s wheels are still rolling, even a little, I win!

On the other hand, if I can see that I’m a little further back from the intersection than they are, I slow down so that I’m just rolling up to the sign, letting my wheels creep, so that they have a chance to actually stop at least a couple of seconds before I do, and therefore….I win again!! (Because I’m in control of this siteation!)

The thing I hate, almost more than anything, is when I have set it up so that they come to a complete stop seconds before me, then, when I get there, where they’ve been setting for two seconds, they wave me on through like, “Go ahead!” I don’t know if they think they’re being nice, or if they’re afraid to make the first move, or what. But it’s just frustrating. The the actions of their car, and the actions of themselves are sending conflicting messages, and that’s not good.

(I’ve always had this urge to get us both stopped at the same time, then play “Paper, Scissors, Rock” for the right of way! Wouldn’t that put a smile on everyone’s face!)

Kraigmo's avatar

Anyone who takes time to think this through after doing some observation will come to @Val123 ‘s conclusion.

The problem is: most people have never observed this pattern, and never thought it through. A lot have… but most haven’t.

The more people that approach stop signs correctly and intelligently, the faster the dumb masses will finally catch on to how it logically works.

And in addition to that, yes, if two people actually do happen to stop at the exact same time, the one on the right goes at that point. Otherwise, whoever tires completely stopped rolling first, is the person who should go… and go immediately. In a manner the same as or similar to how Val described.

Val123's avatar

@Kraigmo “And go immediately”.....exactly right. When you hesitate that’s when you start sending, “O, I don’t know what to do. Maybe they should go first…no, maybe I should go first…no, I don’t know what to do!”

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