Q&A - Right of Way at a Two Way Stop

Q&A ImageMy question is regarding the right of way at a regular two way stop sign. When turning left after coming to a stop are you required to yield to all traffic coming straight through?

My questions arises from the courteous drivers who wave you through your left turn when they are planning to go straight through. I was under the impression that traffic going straight through always has the right of way regardless of when you arrive at the stop sign.

I have been fingered in just such a circumstance, obviously offending the "courteous" driver but am only protecting myself form an "accident".

I have tried consulting the "rules of the road" but find it is not all that clear on this specific situation so I really appreciate your input here.



I think that you and most drivers are going to be surprised by my response. Through traffic does NOT always have the right of way.

Entering through highway

175 (1) If a vehicle that is about to enter a through highway has stopped in compliance with section 186,

(a) the driver of the vehicle must yield the right of way to traffic that has entered the intersection on the through highway or is approaching so closely on it that it constitutes an immediate hazard, and

(b) having yielded, the driver may proceed with caution.

(2) If a vehicle is entering a through highway in compliance with subsection (1), traffic approaching the intersection on the highway must yield the right of way to the entering vehicle while it is proceeding into or across the highway.

Your obligation is to stop at the stop sign, look and yield to through traffic that would be an immediate hazard, then proceed with caution. Through traffic approaching you that is not an immediate hazard to you must then yield and let you into the intersection. Don't ever expect this behaviour from through traffic!

The hook here is that you may proceed with caution. If through traffic isn't going to stop then it places some onus on you to be careful of that and not insist on your right of way.

Be careful of the wave. Never do it yourself to avoid placing yourself in a position of liability. If the other driver takes your direction and something bad happens because of it, you could be held liable for giving the direction.

Another Question

If two stop signs are opposing each other with a main road going through these, car A arrives at a stop sign first and wants to turn left, car B arrives at the opposing stop sign and wants to turn right (or go straight through), who has the right of way? Does the first car to the intersection have the right of way, or does the person turning left yield to the others?


In combination with the answer above and the rule on yielding for left turns:

Yielding right of way on left turn

174 When a vehicle is in an intersection and its driver intends to turn left, the driver must yield the right of way to traffic approaching from the opposite direction that is in the intersection or so close as to constitute an immediate hazard, but having yielded and given a signal as required by sections 171 and 172, the driver may turn the vehicle to the left, and traffic approaching the intersection from the opposite direction must yield the right of way to the vehicle making the left turn.

you will see that in your scenario Car A gets to turn and Car B must wait.

Still Confused

I am still unclear of the right of way for a situation I commonly find my self in:

I arrive at and stop at a stop sign and signal my intent to turn left on to the through street. While I am waiting (yielding) for a break in traffic on the through street another car arrives opposite me and stops at its stop sign. It does not signal a turn, indicating it wants to cross the through street.

Now we are both yielding to traffic in the through street waiting for a break in traffic. When one finally comes, who has right of way? Do I have right of way because I arrived at the intersection first? Or to I have to yield it to the car opposite me because I am turning left?

What if another car is waiting behind them and also going straight, when another break in the through traffic finally comes who will have right of way?

I always though I had to yield it as I was turning left, but this seems to say otherwise. Please clarify it for me.


Yes, it does say otherwise, doesn't it. Are you confused because it is not explained well or because that is not what you are used to doing and think that the explanation may be incorrect?

The driver of the vehicle travelling straight through does tend to think that they have right of way, but this left turn situation is one where they may not. I am always very careful when I try and exercise this on a left turn for just that reason.

Nobody ever HAS the right-of-way under law ...

... however, if a driver has properly signalled his intention to turn left in accordance with Section 170 (as well as 171 & 172 as applicable), and once that driver has stopped properly at his stop sign in accordance with Section 186 (this can be a rare occurrence for many drivers who seem to have forgotten how to do so), and having stopped then moved into the intersection in accordance with Section 175, then Section 174 comes into effect.

And it's not that our left-turning driver has the right-of-way - he doesn't, it's a null concept.  However, the later arriving oncoming driver who is going straight must obey this: the driver may turn the vehicle to the left, and traffic approaching the intersection from the opposite direction must yield the right of way to the vehicle making the left turn

Or at least, that's how I see it.

Right of way?

I've never forgotten a "safe driving" course I took many years ago. The moderator drew an intersection on a blackboard, drew two vehicles and asked, "Who has the right of way?" Discussion and pretty much agreement followed.

Then he added stop signs ... more discussion. Then traffic signals ... and on it went.

Finally he erased the diagram, turned and said, "Right of way is arguing points for lawyers in a courtroom .... but you're just as dead!"

this is what ICBC thinks

two-way stops — if two streets intersect and only one of the streets has stop signs, then the other street is a through street. Traffic on the through street has the right-of-way. If you are stopped at one of these types of intersections, wait until there is a safe gap before going through or turning. If two vehicles are stopped at a two-way stop and one of the drivers wants to turn left, this driver should yield the right-ofway to the other vehicle. The only exception is if the left-turning vehicle is already in the intersection and has started to make the turn. In this case, the other vehicle must yield. 

I grabbed this from the ICBC website http://www.icbc.com/driver-licensing/Documents/drivers4.pdf

There Lies My Problem

I tend to explain everything from the point of view of the law, rather than plain English instructions that ICBC provides. This is where my experience lies. In the real world, ICBC's advice is practical, but it doesn't always exactly reflect what the courts might see as a duty.

Yes, but...........

Which courts are we talking about ?

From a police perspective, the two major sources of "rules", when operating a vehicle, are the Motor Vehicle Act and the Criminal Code.  Both are quite black and white.  From a civil perspective (ICBC), the "law" is a bit more grey, comprised of primarily (again) our MVA, the Criminal Code, but also a ton of case law.

Explaining, also why, certain actions when operating a vehicle will result in a Road Test fail, but aren't violations of any law.

Um, not how I would see it.

Explaining, also why, certain actions when operating a vehicle will result in a Road Test fail, but aren't violations of any law.

Road Tests will certainly take the law into account, but the measurement standards are quite different from being a strict legal analysis of driver behaviour.

On a Road Test, for instance, it's required that a driver demonstrate proficient vehicle control - things like steering, cornering, braking, parking, reversing ... and so on. The driver must also demonstrate a knowledge of the Regulations in effect in the driving environment at the time.

Right-of-way at 2-way stops will only be one element of a road test.

If only it was that simple

When taking a road test, try turning left from a two way to a two way street and not turn into the lane closest to the centre line.

Now check the MVA.  Sec 165(2)(c).  As long as you turn into a lane that is right of centre, you are in compliance.  There are many actions that are not illegal that would be marked wrong in a test.

Deja Vu

We've had this discussion before elsewhere on the site.

You didn't believe me then and I don't expect you to believe me now, but I still contend that case law interpreting the requirements of 165 would put you in jeopardy of a conviction if you were ticketed for not turning into the first available lane when making a left turn.

Just read the law

The MVA is taken literally if it says so it's so, if it doesn't it isn't.

The MVA very carefully describes the location FROM which lane a vehicle can approach a turn.  All it says about completing the turn is "right of centre".

Do you think they just got lazy in describing the lanes to be travelled in, when they got to 165(2)(c).

In describing turning left onto a one way street, the description is consistant with your arguement, "leave the intersection as nearly as practicable in the left hand lane available to traffic moving in the direction of travel of the vehicle on the highway being entered."

If I must turn into the "first available lane", then that's what it should say in the MVA.  Pretty simple.

There are several of these "laws" that are continually in dispute.

- Changing lanes in an intersection

- After stopping at a traffic light, not at an intersection, proceeding on the red, when safe to do so.

- Not having to signal a turn if other traffic will not be affected.

Which is how it should be, for testing purposes.

There are many actions that are not illegal that would be marked wrong in a test.

But that's the point I was making, in my previous and even more previouser posts in this thread.

There are many instances where Road Test criteria are independent of strict legal requirements! And that's how it should be. Observation is a crucial skill, before and during every maneuver that a driver makes, so it has to be sufficient for safety purposes in order to qualify; but there are no specific legal requirements for where a driver should be looking, and when, in the Motor Vehicle Act & Regs.

Incidentally, during a Commercial Road Test, the Applicant can complete left the turn you describe (as well as a turn made from a One-Way into a Two-Way Street, by the way) in any damn lane he pleases so long as it's done safely.


Guides are only that ...

... and the information contained in them cannot override the mighty Motor Vehicle Act & Regs.

A Guide will try to tell you what to do, in order to be a successful driver, basically.

Certainly, ICBC can't contradict the MVA, but they're not trying to; only to provide 'good advice'.  They provide the same information for when you're at a 4-Way stop, although they don't actually exist in the MVA.

So this all goes back to Right of Way at a Two Way Stop, and that's covered under Section 186 (your legally necessary action when arriving at the Stop, no matter which way you're going). So once you move forward enough, it's Section 175 - not Section 174 - that should apply.

Right of way at Two Way Stop

I'm still confused also, about the same question, although I've read all the responses, and I don't believe I'm stupid. 

It's most problematic when the through-street that you're trying to cross or turn left onto, is very busy, and there may only be brief windows of opportunity where it's possible to do so safely. With cars waiting on opposite sides, both looking to take advantage of that next small break in traffic, it's important that both of them know who gets the next one and who has to wait. There has to be some rule, because there just isn't time (between cross-traffic) to start to inch out and then give way to the other if necessary. You have to act fast to get into that break, and if both go at once you could easily have a 4-car crash. If both cars wait, both cars lose the opportunity and the drivers are now mad at each other and both ready to go when the next break comes. So what's the rule? Simply alternate? Or left turner waits for every single straight-through car to go first? Or try to make eye contact and use hand signals and it's decided by whoever gestures more forcefully? (which is what seems to happen the most). Or consult the I Ching, or what? ;-) 

I can see where it may just

I can see where it may just be easier and safer to go straight through, do 3 right turns, and you are where you want to be, going in the left direction.

Maybe so ...

... and certainly applicable where you have a busy multi-lane arterial, with Stop Signs on the cross street.

But off topic, in terms of the thread question about right-of-way.

Case Law on Point

November 2021:

Jindal v Dhaliwal is an example of case law that examines these circumstances.

Right of way while entering a through road

Apologies for the badly drawn stop sign,

a) 1 is stopped waiting for a left turn and 2 arrives wanting to turn left. Who has the right of way?

b) Who has the right of way if there is a cross walk in front of 2 (no stop sign) but pedestrians have the hand signal at that time? I have never seen this before, but it actually exists in Richmond.

Thanks for your help.

Vehicle 2

Since you draw them in close proximity and don't explain about the approach or wait times, I will reply that vehicle 2 has the right of way in both cases.

Where in Richmond, from interest?

I would say that if there's a marked crosswalk in front of Car #2, and pedestrians are facing some kind of 'Don't Walk' signal, then this can only be a flashing green (i.e. pedestrian-controlled) light on the main road.

Being as Car #1 has stopped at the line, but has not yet advanced into the intersection then they're obligated to give right of way to traffic on that main road.

IMHO any kind of pedestrian-controlled flashing green traffic light that has been erected at an intersection (rather than mid-block) is a fundamental error on the part of the traffic engineers. Whether it's a T or a 'regular' 2-Way Stop, it mostly causes confusion, with pedestrians all too often illegally walking into the unmarked crosswalk in front of the stop sign (because they're obligated to obey the red light on the main road), and very often drivers arriving at their stop sign without making any attempt to actually stop, so they never have right of way either.

 I was waiting in the

 I was waiting in the position of 1 for quite a while for traffic on the through road to clear (say 10 vehicles in one direction) before 2 arrived on the scene.  Do left turning vehicles on the through road with no stop sign arriving later have priority over the vehicle on the side road stopped at a stop line?  Thanks a lot. 


It would never occur to drivers that through traffic might have to yield to a driver waiting at the stop sign as outlined at the beginning of this thread. Don't count on them to do what the law requires.

Priority is determined by who is where as explained, also at the beginning of this thread.

Entering through highway

I'm just going through this thread again to understand this better and looking at the legislation at the start of the thread.

Is it safe to assume that if a vehicle is stopped at the stop sign, that vehicle is not meeting the requirement of "entering a through highway" stated in point 2 and therefore a left turning vehicle on the throughway gets to turn left first. If the vehicle stopped at the stop sign according to 175(1) has started moving(i.e. entering) and is anywhere in the intersection, then the traffic on the highway needs to yield. Please correct me if wrong.

About to Enter a Through Highway

The first vehicle stopped at the stop sign is about to enter the through highway.

What happens next is determined by how far away traffic on the through highway is from the intersection. If they are far enough away that it is practical to yield, then the through traffic yields and the vehicle waiting at the stop sign proceeds. If not, then the vehicle at the stop sign waits until through traffic passes by.

It does not matter if the traffic waiting at the stop sign is turning or passing straight through.

Thanks so much. Can a vehicle

Thanks so much. Can a vehicle on the throughway come to a complete stop while yielding? 


They may have to stop. 

Caveat: don't ever expect through traffic to follow this rule. Most drivers likely don't even know the rule exists.

Thanks very much. This is

Thanks very much. This is very helpful. 

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