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What are the Rules of a Four-Way Stop?

Four-way stops can be tough to navigate through, especially when faced with drivers at all four stops. Imagine piling in all at once and not knowing who’s entitled to go first.

There is a system in place to make sure the correct driver is given the right of way at an intersection, and that system governs our way of life here in California.

Below you will find an in-depth breakdown of four-way stop rules and regulations, as well as some pointers on what to do if you find yourself injured from an accident at an FWS.

What is a four-way Traffic Stop and What are the Rules?

A four-way stop is an intersection where traffic from all four directions is required to stop. Typically, these intersections are marked by stop signs at each corner and sometimes accompanied by a supplemental road sign stating "4-WAY.”

Here's how it really works in California:

  • First Come, First Served: The first vehicle to arrive at the intersection has the right of way. That means if you're the first to arrive, you’re the first to go.
  • Right Goes First: If two vehicles arrive at an intersection at the same time, the vehicle on the right has the right of way. So, if you and another car arrive simultaneously, and the other car is on your right, they get to go first.
  • Straight Goes First: If two vehicles arrive simultaneously and are across from each other, the vehicle going straight has the right of way. If you're trying to turn left and the car across from you is going straight, you should wait for them to go first.
  • Everyone Must Stop: Every car approaching a four-way stop must come to a complete stop. Rolling stops (where the car doesn't fully stop) are not allowed. They’re actually illegal. Ironically these stops are so prevalent in California; they are coined “California Rolls.”

Also, when one vehicle is turning right and another is turning left at the same intersection, the driver turning right is granted the right of way

Making left turns is more straightforward—when both drivers are turning left at the same time, they can go ahead in unison.

Common mistakes drivers make at four-way stops

We believe in defensive driving on the road, especially when crossing a four-way stop. 

Drivers can find themselves in dicey situations if certain mistakes are made at an intersection.

Our firm has listed a few common mistakes motorists make when dealing with four-way stops.

  • Trusting turn signals: Drivers should not trust that people are using their blinkers properly and should be defensive.
  • Confusion: Four-way stops can be confusing, and confusion can lead to accidents.
  • Prolonged stops: Prolonged stops at a four-way stop sign can also confuse other drivers and cause traffic jams and chaos at an intersection.
  • Changing lanes in an intersection: Drivers should never change lanes when passing through an intersection, whether they are going straight or making a turn.
  • Not knowing the right-of-way: Drivers should know the right-of-way rules at four-way stops and follow traffic signals / signs to the best of their abilities.  

Most Common four-way Stop Accidents 

Accidents at four-way stop intersections hold significant risk, frequently leading to T-bone, broadside, side-impact, or right-angle crashes. 

These kinds of accidents can cause serious harm, including traumatic brain damage, injuries to the neck, and severe damage to the spinal cord

Drivers who refuse to stop or misunderstand the rules of a four-way stop are at a higher risk of causing fatal accidents, especially for pedestrians crossing the street at an intersection. 

Who is at fault in a four-way stop accident?

Assigning liability in accidents at four-way stop intersections can be challenging. It's technically your word against the other drivers. Nonetheless, it is typically the driver who neglected to respect the right of way of the other motorist who is held liable. 

In these instances, we highly suggest speaking to a credible personal injury lawyer that can help you recover any damages from your accident and start an investigation.  

Need Help after an Accident? Call West Coast Trial Lawyers

Our Personal injury lawyers are the best in the business. We are former federal prosecutors and super lawyers that have built a top rated law firm in the heart of downtown Los Angeles. 

Our founder has not only graduated from Harvard University and UCLA, but his track record has seen the likes of Marriott, Disney, and other corporate giants call on his services as a trial lawyer. 

Our mission now is not to enrich corporations but to offer California Injury Victims access to world-class legal representation with no upfront costs or fees
To schedule a free case evaluation with one of our top-rated personal injury lawyers, we welcome you to contact us by calling 888-539-9582 or filling out this online contact form.

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