Sullivan: Why do so many people get freaked out at four-way stops?

Mar 21, 2024, 6:47 AM

four-way stops...

Graphic on four-way stops (Photo courtesy of Top Driver)

(Photo courtesy of Top Driver)

There is no mystery to how four-way stops work, so why do so many people mess up this simple maneuver?

I have never understood why so many people get freaked out at four-way stops. They are relatively easy to understand, but many drivers remain confused.

I’m bringing this up because a big Chokepoints fan named Kathryn asked me to go over the rules.

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For those following at home, this is found from Section 3-23 to 3-26 in the Washington Driver’s Guide, under the heading “right of way.” As the guide points out, no one has the right of way. Drivers must yield the right of way to others.

The general rule is simple. The driver who gets to the intersection goes first. And that means the driver who comes to a complete stop first. None of this “rolling through” nonsense.

If two cars arrive at the same time, the driver to the right goes first. Now this only works if everyone is using their turn signals so everyone knows where everyone is intending to go.

Kathryn’s question was a little more specific. What happens if you have the right of way, but there is a pedestrian in the mix? Drivers must always yield right of way to pedestrians and bicyclists.

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In this case, the driver must wait for the pedestrian to clear and then enter the intersection. Another driver can enter the intersection while the first driver is waiting, but that first driver doesn’t lose his or her place in the queue.  That driver gets to go once the pedestrian has cleared. The whole “who got there first” doesn’t start over for this driver.

And this doesn’t just apply to four-way stops, but also intersections where there are no stop signs, yield signs or traffic signals.

Just be courteous. Use your signals. And watch for pedestrians.

Check out more of Chris’ Chokepoints here. You can also follow Chris on X, formerly known as TwitterHead here to follow KIRO Newsradio Traffic’s profile on X.


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Sullivan: Why do so many people get freaked out at four-way stops?