Who Has the Right of Way at a 4-Way Stop?

stop sign

Soon after people drove the first automobiles onto U.S. roads, authorities realized they needed traffic laws. Following traffic laws can prevent you from being in a car or pedestrian accident. Some traffic laws are determined by the state, while others apply nationwide. 

Individuals must demonstrate they understand local and national traffic laws to earn their driver’s license. Although this involves passing written and driving tests, many drivers forget traffic laws after earning their licenses. While rules surrounding regular stop signs and speed limits are clear, many drivers must remember four-way stop rules.

What is a 4-way stop

A 4-way stop refers to an intersection where each connected road has a stop sign. Also known as all-way stops, the stop signs at four-way intersections have a sign that says four-way, 4-way, or all-way below the red octagonal stop sign.

Failing to stop at stop signs results in hundreds of thousands of accidents yearly. Car accidents cause thousands of fatalities and millions of injuries. Injured persons may spend weeks or months recovering from severe injuries, and some suffer permanent injuries. Four-way stops can reduce the number of accidents at an intersection. Municipalities often install four-way stops at intersections with high collision rates or intersections involving minor highways. It’s also common to find four-way stops at intersections with reduced visibility. 

How does a 4-way stop work

Since each road at the intersection has a stop sign, every driver who reaches a 4-way intersection must come all the way to a complete stop. It’s illegal to stop and go without yielding the right of way to the appropriate driver. Drivers must allow the driver with the right of way to go first and follow the assigned right of way until they’re able to pass through the intersection. 

Who has the right of way at a four-way stop

At a four-way stop, the “right of way” refers to the driver with the legal right to go first. The right of way varies based on the circumstances of arrival at the four-way stop.

What happens when a vehicle stops at a four-way stop and additional vehicles arrive before they pass through the intersection? 

You have the right of way when you are the vehicle that arrives first. If you’re driving the vehicle that was stopped at the intersection when the other cars arrived, you get to go first. It doesn’t matter if vehicles are turning or going straight. 

What happens when two or three vehicles arrive at the same time? 

If two or three motorists reach a four-way stop simultaneously, each driver must yield to the driver to their right. That means the driver without a vehicle in the intersection to their right would have the right of way and go first. This rule applies until all vehicles have safely passed through the intersection.

Are there situations when multiple cars can go at the same time?

Suppose the first vehicle at the intersection is going straight. This vehicle is across from another vehicle that’s going straight. In this scenario, both vehicles may pass through the intersection at the same time. 

If two or more vehicles are all turning right, all vehicles can proceed with caution and pass through the intersection. Drivers may also be able to turn right when a vehicle is going straight, provided they won’t cross paths with the driver with the right of way. In these circumstances, drivers should be alert and check to see if other drivers are also entering the intersection to avoid collisions. When in doubt, drivers should wait until they have the right of way.

What rules apply to pedestrians and bicyclists at 4-way stops?

Most states grant pedestrians the right of way. In Florida, bicyclists and motorists must yield the right of way to pedestrians so long as the pedestrians are crossing legally. This means drivers stopping at a four-way stop must check for pedestrians before passing through the intersection. Although jaywalking is illegal, a pedestrian accident can cause severe injuries and carry financial repercussions, so drivers should always check for pedestrians.

Bicyclists must follow the same traffic laws that apply to cars. This means bicyclists must follow four-way stop rules and yield to the appropriate vehicle. 

How do flashing yellow lights compare to 4 way stop signs?

Flashing yellow lights differ from four-way stops. Drivers should use caution at intersections with flashing yellow lights. They must slow down and only pass through the intersection when it’s safe. There’s no legal requirement to stop if the intersection is clear.

What should you do after a car accident at a four-way stop?

Car accidents can cause physical injuries, property damage, and mental trauma. In Florida, anyone in an accident that injures a person or causes at least $500 of property damage must contact the police and remain at the scene. 

It’s also a good idea to contact a car accident attorney. Our attorneys will explain the laws you must comply with and how to protect your legal rights after your accident. Our attorneys can handle negotiations with insurance companies and take legal steps to get you the maximum compensation for any medical bills, property damage, and other costs. 

Sources

The 10 Most Scary Driving Statistics of 2022. (2022). 

Retting, R. et al. (2003). Analysis of motor-vehicle crashes at stop signs in four U.S. cities

The 2022 Florida Statutes. (2022). 

About the Author

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Jack G. Bernstein, ESQ.

Jack Bernstein is a hard working and highly motivated personal injury attorney in Miami, Florida with over three decades of experience. He is a strategist and idea person, with a genuine passion for helping his firm’s clients. If you've been injured, contact Jack Bernstein today for a free evaluation of your case.

The information contained herein is intended for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. Seek competent legal counsel for advice on any legal matter.