4 Way Stops

4 Way Stop SignWho goes first at 4 way stops? The concept should be simple, first to stop, first to go. However, when more than one driver stops at the same time the situation becomes a bit more complicated. Do you know who to give the right of way to?

Example of intersection with 4 way stops

The Law on 4 Way Stops

The law concerning stopping at intersections is found in Section 186 of the Motor Vehicle Act (MVA). Slowing down and rolling through the intersection without stopping just confuses the situation. Don't do it!

Learn to Drive Smart

Our provincial driver's manual, Learn to Drive Smart, explains four way stops briefly on page 46:

The first vehicle to arrive at the intersection and come to a complete stop should go first.

If two vehicles arrive at the same time, the one on the right should go first.

If two vehicles are facing each other and have arrived at the intersection at about the same time, the one making a left turn should yield to the one going straight through.

This description does not cover some of the other combinations that could occur at intersections with 4 way stops.

Both Stop at the Same Time

What happens when two drivers stop at the same time across from one another, one wanting to turn right and the other to turn left? Section 174 MVA establishes the general case that a left turning driver must yield to approaching traffic that is close enough to be a hazard. The right turn driver goes first.

If both drivers intend to turn left, or both want to turn right, they should be able to go at the same time if there is enough room in the intersection.

Trusting Signals

This might be a good time to share something that my father taught me when I was learning to drive: the only thing that you can be certain about when you see a flashing signal light is that the bulb is still good. The chance might be slim, but drivers sometimes signal one thing and do another.

If there is any doubt about who has the right of way, it is better to yield to the other driver, even if you don't have to.

Don't Forget Pedestrians

Pedestrians add another complication. If you have yielded and the other driver cannot go because of pedestrian traffic, be very careful that it is safe for you take the right of way.

Make Eye Contact

Making eye contact with all road users. It's the things that we don't see that cause us problems and knowing where others are looking or not looking can help us anticipate what is going to happen.

Coming in Second

One final strategy: if you think that you are going to arrive at the same time as other traffic, slow down and arrive second instead. It costs you only a second or two that you may more than regain as you have eliminated the pause to decide who goes first.


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If the road width here - with the potential for vehicles to line up alongside each other in order to get where they're going - was any kind of safety issue, it could easily be solved. Most simply, by adding a solid line white line and a 'right turn only' arrow on the road surface at each corner. Voila! The problem is solved.

If pedestrians were fearful for their safety - note that there are three painted crosswalks there, suggesting that each is used by 25+ pedestrians per hour - then the reasonable (but more expensive) option would be to add pedestrian bulges on each corner, narrowing the vehicle options to a single lane from each direction.

So simple ...

I wracked my brain for an example, but didn't come up with this one, and I've driven through it any number of times.

4 way stops are always first in, first out. That means that if the vehicle across from you comes to a stop, you come to a stop and the vehicle beside the vehicle comes to a stop, you each go in turn. If there is a pedestrian present in the crosswalk, you need to yield to them as you would at any other intersection. The complication is always caused by those who will not wait their turn.

Since there are four lanes in each direction, it means that you have to pay careful attention when you use it.

that has lost power and we're to revert to 4-way stop procedure.  I have been in some 4 lane intersections where the lights have lost power and I believe that is the scenario in which this fella is trying to convey.  Could be wrong though.

My wife failed test exam, unfortunatelly examiner was unfair.

Her car was first @3 stops way. She avoided accident using safe driving according to rules and law.

Action: Made full stop at stop sign, made sure it’s safe to move out, pulled out slowly and found another car approaching aggressively. Had to stop to make sure another car stopped (after the sign already) to avoid an accident.

Examiner response comes into contradiction with rules and common sense. She said that my wife should go ahead without stopping; it’s your right of way.

From the BC’s safe driving guide: “Make full stops at stop signs, and make sure you stop in the correct position. When it’s safe to move out, pull out slowly, scanning the intersection”
From the BC’s safe driving guide: “If there is any doubt about who has the right of way, or if there is any chance of a crash, it’s always better to yield the right of way to the other person”
Experience: Some drivers just do not see stop sign and ignore it. Safety first!

Examiner response comes into contradiction with rules and common sense. She said that my wife should go ahead without stopping; it’s your right of way.

There is no way that a DE would have said this. And, even if they did, there's nothing in the way a road test gets marked that would have resulted in a 'Fail'.

What almost certainly happened is that your wife, when driving without instruction for the first time, made an error of judgment that required the DE to take verbal control of the situation. As often happens on driving tests, especially if the applicant was 'taught how to drive' by a spouse.

how about intersections,built to wide,,say where 2 cars can fit comfortably,side by side,,,but there is no painted line to split it into 2 seperatrate lanes.

a few itersections in town are like this,,and most drivers,turn a 2way stop,into a 2way stop,only with 2 cars on the same side of the street,same on the other side that had the stop sign,,so now you have 4 cars waiting to enter the right of way lanes,,from a 2 way stop.

The 4 way stop has been turned into a six way stop,the east side of the intersection,,no painted line to seperate lanes(just too wide) and the north side,same thing,no painted lines to seperate them (just too wide)

Now if I drive my car in the middle,,I can prevent another vehical from tuning it into at least a 5 way,,but doiing this gets lots of honks from the drivers behind,

so are you allowed,,,without painted lines to seperate these  lanes,,alowed to change these intersections  from 2 way,to a 4 way,,and a 4 way to a 6 way?

The Imaginary inside lane gets turned into a right turning lane,

I thought I was correct,but nothing like beiing certain.

It,s just an apperent accepted practise in my town,Espessaly in higher traffic times of the day,I have never heard of anyone getting a ticket for this Dangerous driving practice.

So I will continue,to drive as close to the center of the road,to try and prevent the drivers from passing me on the right. And expect a whole lot more horn honking,and displayed middle fingers directed towards me.

I will continue to SMILE AND WAVE!

In reply to by taxi driver (not verified)

First thing to realize, is that if you're going straight, and another driver pulls up alongside to turn right, AT NO TIME will that driver have 'passed' you. There is no conflict, they do not get ahead of you. Look up the definition of 'passing' some time.

More importantly, if you take delight in blocking other drivers deliberately (causing them to express their frustration) then there's something wrong with you. The fundamental cause of most traffic crashes is the state of mind of the driver, and you are deliberately triggering angry responses in these other drivers. Give your head a shake!

That video is absurd. The guy says, of 4-Ways 'It's completely different than what you're required to do for a driver's test.' 

Well, crap. On a road test, you're expected to actually stop behind the stop line, and take the intersection when it's your turn, or when there no other conflicts. How is that different from real life? And never mind that 'social driving' nonsense -  he's implying that it's not necessary to follow these traffic laws, unless you're on a road test.

The fact is virtually everything that's expected of a driver on a road test is the same as real life. OK, there's small tolerance for a speed marking or violation if you're on the freeway and 'going with the flow', but typically it will only be for a kilometer or two so it's no hardship to obey the rules. Ofentimes, maintaining a proper following distance (always necessary, just like real life) is the most important thing to consider. And what the heck, being as I'm giving a free driving lesson here, then the other key factor of freeway use is to use the on-ramp to get up to, and match, the speed of the traffic you're merging with (none of this skulking down the ramp looking over your shoulder nonsense) plus in like manner the exit ramp, keeping your foot off the brake until you're completely off the freeway, just so you're not screwing up traffic behind you.

Just like ... real life!

Driver A stops first at the 4 way stop, but there are pedestrians crossing in front of him (i.e they are crossing from X to Y). Just as the pedestrians finish crossing, Driver B arrives and stops, hasn't entered the intersection yet, who has the right of way? Thanks for your help. 

4 way stop right of way diagram

Thanks so much. I'm assuming it would be the same if Car A turns right and Car B wants to go straight as well. Is that correct?