How to handle intersections

Navigating through unregulated 4-way intersections (ones without lights) should really be as easy as counting to 4.  Or 3 or 2, depending on how many stop signs there are.  The rule with these kinds of intersections is that you get to proceed on a first-come, first-move basis.  No. Cheating.

Naturally, there are exceptions, as there are with any situation. The following diagrams provide a visual representation of what to do in some sample situations.

(I’ve already discussed not pulling out in front of people, and those rules apply to here as well.)

We’ll start with a relatively simple scenario.


This kind of deal happens a lot at one particular intersection where I live.  The brown-ish car is attempting to make a left-hand turn.  The teal-ish car is attempting to make a right hand turn.  Now, if this is one of those intersections where there’s never anyone on the road, then whatever, fight for who gets to go first, but the particular intersection where this happens all the time is plagued with heavy cross-traffic.  Alas, the poor person trying to make a left will never get home if everyone turning right never lets them go.

This requires the cooperation of both the brown car and the teal car.  Each driver must keep note of who arrived at the stop sign first.  Each driver must also be aware of on-coming traffic in both lanes.   The teal car needs to decide whether he/she is the only car of the two able to make the turn safely or not.  By this I mean, if there is a long string of cars in the opposing lane and the nearest lane into which he/she is turning is completely open, then the teal car may go despite order of arrival; if both lanes are  clear, then order of arrival wins out.  It’s slightly complicated, which is why these kinds of intersections suck at rush hour–and why they cause so many problems in general.

Continuing on, the above scenario applies if one car is making a right turn and the opposite car is making a left tern.  The diagram below shows an easier case where the brown and teal cars are not attempting to go into the same lane.  With this situations it is SUPER DUPER IMPORTANT TO USE YOUR FRICKEN SIGNAL! A lot of problems at intersections and in life could be avoided by signalling.  It is key to let the other person know what you want to do so they can plan accordingly and everyone can get to their desired destination intact.


Next, let’s talk about those pesky 4-way stop intersections.  They really should not be as awful as everyone makes them.  You proceed in a sequential order.  If you get there at the same time as someone else, then you’re just being a jerk… or they’re being a jerk.. someone involved in that situation is being uncool.  Slow down and let them stop first, or use the written rule which say that the person on the right goes first… which seems odd to me because a 4-way intersection is kind of like a circle and there isn’t just “one” person who is on the right and “right” is a matter of perspective… but I digress.

Anyway, at these intersections you keep track of who is going and in what order– “1, 2, 3, 4”.  Count out loud if you have to. I do when the intersection is exceptionally busy.


As you can see above, we have an example of a busy 4-way intersection.  The number 1 car was the first to arrive and is currently making its way through the intersection.  The second car to arrive (2), will proceed after 1 has either started or completed their move (depends on where car 2 is going.  Assuming  car 1 is going straight at this intersection, car 2 can begin to either go straight or make a right turn as soon as car 1 begins to make their move.  If car 2 is making a left turn, they obviously have to wait.)  Once car 3 has done their move, car 4 can go.  After this, car “1a” will make their maneuver and the cycle continues over again.  Always make sure that you are keeping track as to where other people are going and what order they are all arriving at the intersection.

Unfortunately, this whole “if you’re there first, go first” hits a bit of a snag when you reach a scenario like the one below:


1 is currently doing their thing through the intersection, and clearly 2 is second to move.  Now, from the way this picture is drawn it appears that 3 is going to reach the stop line before 4 is.  However, if 4 were closer to the line and does in fact reach in the intersection before 3 does, the green car would then be 3 and the blue car would be 4.

When in doubt, use hand signals.  If you do use hand signals of some kind, don’t wait 5 minutes until everyone’s all confused before you use them.

And if other people are too thick to get the whole process of the intersection, take deep breaths, avoid any accidents, and continue on to your destination.

Also remember that driving is a group activity and you’re going to have to cooperate.


One thought on “How to handle intersections

  1. Pingback: You can’t make everyone happy | Where Did You Learn How to Drive?

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