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Who's right (of-way)?
August 6, 2008 7:27 PM   Subscribe

Who has the right of way in this situation? There's a north-south street crossing an east-west street. The north-south street has stop signs. The east-west traffic does not stop. A car (car #1) approaches from the south intending to turn LEFT (westbound), but has to wait for the east-west traffic to clear. While waiting, another car (car #2) pulls up from the north at the southbound stop sign, intending to go straight. So who goes first, 1 or 2?

Some people think that, because car #1 arrived at the intersection first, car #1 has right-of-way over car #2.

Other (crazy) people say that the car going straight (car #2) always has right-of-way, even if they arrived after car #1. But in that case, an endless line of southbound cars would mean car #1 would never have right-of-way.

(I'm specifically interested in Oregon, but reading the Driver's Manual didn't yield (ha!) an answer)
posted by mrnutty to Law & Government (24 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
I would say car number 2 goes first, because it's going straight but car number 1 has to cross traffic. You are right that this would mean car number 1 would never have right of way given an endless line of southbound cars, but is that ever actually going to happen?

Note that this may well be different in different places - my answer was based on Australian road rules. But generally, "getting there first" is usually unrelated to rights-of-way.
posted by Jimbob at 7:37 PM on August 6, 2008


Think of this for example, for why "arriving at the intersection first" is a poor way to manage traffic. Imagine car #1 pulls up, then another car (#1b) pulls up behind that, also turning left, then car #2 arrives on the north side, then another car (#1c) arrives turning left behind car #1b, then another car going straight pulls up behind car #2 (#2b).

The driver in car #2 suddenly has to keep track of the order the cars on the south side of the intersection arrived - who they have to give way to and who has to give way to them. Makes things way overcomplicated - what if they lose count, and think they give way to car #1 but not car #1b?
posted by Jimbob at 7:45 PM on August 6, 2008


Getting there first only applies when both cars will be going straight. Turning cars always wait until everyone else is clear, save for left turn lights, of course.
posted by cheerwine at 7:46 PM on August 6, 2008


Note that if there were an endless stream of cars going straight east or west, neither car 1 or 2 would ever get to go. So that's not the best criterion for trying to remember what's legal.
posted by ErWenn at 7:59 PM on August 6, 2008


I found the following information for Massachusetts here [pdf]:

"Intersections Not Controlled by Signs or Signals
If you come to an uncontrolled intersection, slow down, look left and right for oncoming traffic, and proceed if the way is clear. However,
•You must yield the right-of-way to any vehicle that has entered the intersection from
your right or is approaching from your right.
•Look for any traffic approaching from the left. Even though you may have the legal
right-of-way, make sure that the other driver is yielding to you before you proceed.

Four-Way Stop
At an intersection controlled by stop signs in all directions, you must yield the right-of-way
to...
•Another vehicle that has already come to a full stop at the intersection
•A vehicle on your immediate right that has stopped at the intersection at the same time as you
Confusion can develop at four-way stop intersections. You should try to make eye contact
with the drivers of other vehicles at the intersection to better judge their intentions and
avoid accidents.

At a four-way stop, vehicles must proceed in order they stopped. The first to stop is the next to
go. If in doubt, give the right-of-way to the driver on your right."

They don't give any information about the specific scenario you describe, but applying the logic from the rules above suggests that the first to enter the intersection gets to go first, regardless if the car is turning or going straight. In Massachusetts anyway.
posted by DiscourseMarker at 8:03 PM on August 6, 2008


Well there you go. I may be wrong.
posted by Jimbob at 8:08 PM on August 6, 2008


You are right that this would mean car number 1 would never have right of way given an endless line of southbound cars, but is that ever actually going to happen?

Have you ever been to New Jersey?

Not to joke - this is actually the reason for the creation of the "jug handle" intersections that out-of-staters find so odd. Traffice density is a problem. Because cars in this situation could almost never turn left, these intersections allow you to "turn right to turn left" and approach as if you were on the major road. If the left-turner ever had right of way, they'd be unecessary; but they never do as traffic never clears.
posted by Miko at 8:16 PM on August 6, 2008


Yeah, my theory for why the first to arrive at either stop sign gets to go first is based on how four way stops work. Just remove the east-west stop signs.

Jimbob, the drivers don't have to keep track of who arrived at the line-up at what time, but who arrived at the stop sign at what time.
posted by mrnutty at 8:22 PM on August 6, 2008


The drivers at the stop signs would treat the right of way the exact same way as if it were a four way stop, ie, whoever got there first. Except that they both have to wait for cross traffic.

Driving etiquette would say that the driver making the turn can yield the right of way to the driver going straight if the situation were such that the driver going straight could get through but the turning driver could not. But the right of way belongs to the driver who got there first.
posted by gjc at 8:31 PM on August 6, 2008


Which is to say, the right of way does not depend on what a driver intends to do.
posted by gjc at 8:32 PM on August 6, 2008


It kind of depends on how the east-west traffic is flowing, and which car is clear to enter the intersection first. Generally the first to enter the intersection has right of way. But when both cars are clear to enter the intersection at the same time, if I'm driving car #2 I'll always go first, and if there is going to be a collision it will have to be initiated by car #1 turning into the side of my car. If I'm driving car #1 I'll enter the intersection at the same time as car #2, and clear the lane of traffic I need to cross to get to my lane while car #1 is clearing the lane I'm turning into (and if car #2 hesitates I'll gladly go first -- I'm not the type of driver who will sit around waiting for an indecisive driver to figure out what he's going to do next). By entering the intersection at the same time you avoid having to do the same dance with any cars that may have pulled up behind car #2 at the stop sign. That's my approach, anyway. I've done it in full view of police cruisers and never once been stopped for it.
posted by Balonious Assault at 8:35 PM on August 6, 2008 [1 favorite]


Cool, somebody mentioned jug handles! Yeah, New Jersey, whooooooo!

Anyway...

I was taught that the vehicle making the left yields to the car going straight. If I were the car turning left, and traffic was heavy or there were a lot of cars coming from the other side of the intersection, I'd just turn right, and find a way to do a U-turn.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 8:49 PM on August 6, 2008 [1 favorite]


Car #1. It got there first.

The driver in car #2 suddenly has to keep track of the order the cars on the south side of the intersection arrived - who they have to give way to and who has to give way to them. Makes things way overcomplicated - what if they lose count, and think they give way to car #1 but not car #1b?

Since car #2 got to the intersection before car #1b, there is no danger of confusion. Just follow the same rules as a four-way stop.
posted by yath at 10:52 PM on August 6, 2008


The Vermont 2004-2005 Driver's Manual, which I happen to have lying around, says the following:

"If you are turning left, the vehicle coming toward you, whether it is a motor vehicle or a bicyclist has the right of way. If you have begun a turn and signaled left before the other vehicle gets there, that driver should wait for you to turn."

On the next page there are two pictures. The first has a care going straight and another car turning left in front of it. The caption reads "They Turn Left Rule: Yield to cars in intersection signaling and making turn." The other picture shows a car trying to take a left but another car driving straight through the intersection in front of the first car. This one's caption reads "You Turn Left Rule: Yield to cars approaching."

The more important thing, according to the Manual, is to let someone steal your right of way if they try and not to crash into them on principle. Good advice if you ask me.
posted by papayaninja at 11:18 PM on August 6, 2008


For what it's worth, in some countries, it is definitely car #2 that goes first, and the driving manuals are explicit - cars crossing traffic always yield to cars keeping in their lane.
In the USA, let alone a specific state, I don't know, and the problem (as you've noticed) is I don't even know how you'd find out - this is something that really bugs me about the driving manuals I've read in the USA - they don't tell you important basic things like who should yield in a situation like this. Maybe I just picked the wrong state with a shoddy DMV?
posted by -harlequin- at 11:18 PM on August 6, 2008


JimBob: I would say car number 2 goes first, because it's going straight but car number 1 has to cross traffic.

In some jurisdictions, you are correct. Car #2 would have the right of way in Austria, for instance. I wouldn't be surprised if the rules in Australia were the same.
posted by syzygy at 11:19 PM on August 6, 2008


I'm blown away by this thread. I was taught in driver's ed (Ontario Canada) that the right of way goes right-turn, straight, left-turn, regardless of who got there first.

Same a 4-way stop? What if there's a zillion cars whizzing past and you can't even see the far side of the intersection? What if you both arrive close to the same time and then wait for five minutes?
posted by PercussivePaul at 11:25 PM on August 6, 2008


Same a 4-way stop? What if there's a zillion cars whizzing past and you can't even see the far side of the intersection? What if you both arrive close to the same time and then wait for five minutes?

Well, at a certain point, common sense should take over. Additionally, pretty much every driver's manual states that no one actually has ROW, the rules only dictate who should yield ROW.

Furthermore, from what I read through google searching, Canada's rules seem to be different.
posted by mrnutty at 11:52 PM on August 6, 2008


Turns yield to straight in the context of a green light, but not a stop sign. Stop signs and the rules for them determine who gets to use the intersection, regardless of what you are going to do with it.

At least that's my reading of this.

Specifically, this:

"after coming to a complete stop at an intersection where there is a stop sign or flashing red signal. If there is no stop line, stop before the crosswalk. If there is no crosswalk or stop line, stop at a place where all approaching traffic can be seen. Proceed only after stopping and yielding to all pedestrians and other vehicles in the intersection."

and this

"when more than one driver reaches a four-way stop intersection. The first driver to stop should be the first to go. When two vehicles on different roadways arrive at a four-way stop intersection at the same time, the vehicle on the left should yield to the vehicle on the right."

So, you yield to anyone *IN* the intersection, and then the "who's there first" rule takes over.
posted by gjc at 4:34 AM on August 7, 2008


Essentially it is a courtesy call. The first person to get there should be given the right of way but in an accident, the person that hits the other car is typically at fault. Most traffic situations are handled by way of courtesy as they should be.

The most difficult one I have encountered is when a one-way street meets a two-way at an intersection. Who gets to go first when a car from the one-way street is turning left and the car from the two-way street is turning right? Again, the cars need to come to an agreement on who goes first. After that, the following cars should take turns entering the cross streets.
posted by JJ86 at 5:54 AM on August 7, 2008


Now I understand why it is so freaking scary driving in the States. The rule in Ontario is very clear, a left-turning driver, crossing traffic, must always yield the right-of-way to any approaching vehicle.

Four-way stop rules are only applied to... ummm.... four-way stops.
Consider me blown away along with PercussivePaul.

And what's with the logic "hey, just use the four-way rule and subtract a couple stop signs". Wtf? If you "subtract" a couple stop signs it's no longer a four way stop.
posted by pixlboi at 6:52 AM on August 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


If I were in the turning car, I would enter the intersection but wait for the other car to drive past me, and then complete my turn right as he passed me. Assuming that there was enough of a gap in the cross traffic to do this.

If I were the straight car, I would hope the turning car behaves as above, but I wouldn't assume and would not proceed straight until his intentions were clear to me.
posted by utsutsu at 7:45 AM on August 7, 2008


I was taught that #2 has the right of way (this was in Indiana). Yes, that's different than at a four-way stop. Having said that, when trying to find support for my position I was surpised to find that the Indiana Driver's Manual is silent on the matter. (pp. 41-42)

But in that case, an endless line of southbound cars would mean car #1 would never have right-of-way.

In my experience, two-way stops are not used at streets which would be busy enough to generate "an endless line of cars." Intersections with such streets should be (and generally are) controlled with four-way stops or lights or roundabouts.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 8:13 AM on August 7, 2008


Also blown away. I just moved to the US and I am finding this "subtract a couple of stop signs" magic pretty confusing too. I sometimes have the exact situation described here. I am turning left, and I am ready to give way to the straight-going traffic, but the straight-going traffic saw me get there first, and sometimes they want to let me go first.

Sometimes.
posted by hAndrew at 12:38 AM on September 2, 2008


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