Q&A - Behaving Properly at Stop Signs

Q&A ImageI need a lot of help with these questions that I can't find the right answers to from anyone: What are the rules at a two way stop when 2 cars face each other? There is a different answer on your website and also with ICBC's Learn to Drive Smart Guide. I don't know who proceeds first if both cars stop at the same time face to face and are both turning left on the through street.

Also, which car proceeds first if one is turning left and the other is turning right. If both stop at same time and if the left turning one stops first.

I find a problem with four way stops also which is similar to above at two way stop: Who goes first if both cars facing each other stop at the same time and both are turning left?


It's More Complicated Than One Would Think!

Let's look at the two way stop first:

1) Two vehicles arrive at the stop signs at the same time, both want to go straight through.

Neither needs to yield to the other as their paths cannot cross and the law does not require it.

2) Two vehicles arrive at the stop signs at the same time, both want to turn left.

Again, both could go at the same time as neither will cross the other's path. However, just because the other driver is signaling left doesn't mean that they will actually do that. You need to exercise care.

3) Two vehicles arrive at the stop signs at the same time, one wanting to turn left and one wanting to turn right.

Now we clearly have a conflict and who should go first? Learn to Drive Smart says that the right turn vehicle should. The Motor Vehicle Act does not explicitly state how to break the tie.

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.

Waiting to turn left at a stop sign is not "in an intersection," so this section does not require that you yield. Clearly though, if someone doesn't yield there will be a crash. I expect that Learn to Drive Smart says "should" (not must) because in general, the left turn vehicle yields in conflict situations under law.

This looks after the second part of your question, what if the left turn vehicle stops first? In this case, the left turn vehicle will probably enter the intersection first and will have right of way over the right turn vehicle to proceed.

Really, the four way stop situation is no different than the two way stop scenarios except that cross traffic now has to stop as well.

When I answer, I try to do it by interpreting the Motor Vehicle Act, which is the collection of legal rules that govern vehicle movement on the highway. ICBC approaches it from a wider point of view than only the law. It is important to know what Learn to Drive Smart requires of you, because if it is not followed, you will be marked for it during a road test.

The Corporation will answer questions promptly if you e-mail to feedback@icbc.com.

Finally, the start of Chapter 4 of Learn to Drive Smart is important reading:

Right-of-way at intersections

Right-of-way rules determine who should yield when more than one road user wants to move into the same space. It’s important to know these rules because they keep traffic moving in an orderly way. But remember that you can’t always count on the other person to follow the rules. And even if you have the right- of-way, it’s still your responsibility to do all you can to avoid a crash.

Follow Up Question

Yes the information on your site makes sense given that you say that it is based on your "MVA interpretation and that ICBC approaches it from a wider point of view."

There was just confusion with me with the 2 way stop question where there is a left turn and a right turn vehicle and the left turn vehicle stops before the right turn vehicle. It seems like your site is saying that he left turn vehicle should go first while ICBC says that the right hand vehicle should always go first in these type of cases.

Am I interpreting this correctly or have I completely lost it?

Also, back to the stop sign question where both vehicles are turning left and both stop at the same time. Have I completely lost it here on this? It seems like both might cross each other's path if the timing of one vehicle's turn is faster than the other's.

Any help would be great on this!


If the left turn vehicle is in the intersection, the traffic at the stop sign opposite must yield and let it go. It is not logical that the left turn vehicle should arrive at the stop sign first and have to yield to through traffic on the opposite side arriving second.

As for the two left turn vehicles, the law requires that the left turn be made to the left of center when practical:

165(2) When the driver of a vehicle intends to turn it to the left at an intersection where traffic is permitted to move in both directions on each highway entering the intersection, the driver must

(a) cause the vehicle to approach the intersection in the portion of the right side of the roadway that is nearest the marked centre line, or if there is no marked centre line, then as far as practicable in the portion of the right half of the roadway that is nearest the centre line,

(b) keep the vehicle to the right of the marked centre line or centre line of the roadway, as the case may be, at the place the highway enters the intersection,

(c) after entering the intersection, turn the vehicle to the left so that it leaves the intersection to the right of the marked centre line of the roadway being entered, or if there is no marked centre line then to the right of the centre line of the roadway being entered, and,

(d) when practicable, turn the vehicle in the portion of the intersection to the left of the centre of the intersection.

If there is sufficient room in the intersection for both vehicles at once, then they should not cross paths. If not, then we're back to each having to exercise due care for the other.

More E-Mail

Sorry for being a nuisance, but I had these questions that came up pondering in my head after reading I thought I would send them off so that I can check if I am grasping the concepts correctly and sleep better.

So essentially from reading your answers it seems like a 2 way stop for a left turning and a right turning vehicle should be treated in the same way as the rule for a 4 way stop where the first car that arrives and stops should go first: Going back to the 2 way stop: If the left turning vehicle stops first, then the left turning vehicle should go first before the right turning vehicle. And if the right turning vehicle stops first, then the right turning vehicle should go first before the left turning vehicle.

The only difference is if the left turning vehicle and the right turning vehicle stop at the exact same time. Then the left turning vehicle should yield.

Am I on the right track?

And this question just came up from nowhere:

Going back to the 2 way stop question: What if the left turn vehicle arrive first but their throughway isn't clear while the right turning vehicle's throughway is clear. Should the right turning vehcile still go first eventhough it isn't their turn?

To put it clearer: Say the left turning vehicle is on the north side and the right turning vehicle is on the south side. The left turning vehicle want to turn left onto the east side but there are still a lot of cars coming west, making the left turning vehicle's throughway not clear yet But the right turning vehicle turning right or onto the east side is clear or has no cars coming east.

Should the right turning vehicle still go first eventhough it is not there turn becuase they arrived later?

It would be very silly to

It would be very silly to wait for the left turning car in that case, when clearly the right turning car could turn without conflict.

You can never assume that other drivers will know these rules, anyway, as the answers are not always obvious, and I often very often people are very busy checking the cross traffic that people either lose track or forget which car arrived first.  You should always judge the other driver and anticipate whether they will yield or not. Use courtesy here.  Since both vehicles need to stop, it should be very easy to avoid collisions.  Make eye contact and if you want the other vehicle to go first, make it obvious by waiting behind your line and simply watch the other driver (if you start rolling, looking left and right, then the other driver will anticipate you are trying to turn; while if you just look at the driver he, she will hopefully see that you are waiting for them.)  

At the 2 way stop, whichever car arrived and entered (ie. started rolling past the while stopping line) the intersection first, should go first.  So that means if the left turning car entered the intersection first, then a subsequent right turning or thru traffic should wait, although you can't count on it.


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