Last updated: August 2022
We learn as a child that “green means go,” but there are some slightly more confusing scenarios on the road. Stop signs, intersections, left turns… is it your turn? Do you let the other driver go? Confusion over right-of-way rules can make you feel like you're playing a confusing game of stop and go on your way to work – which is far from safe. Brush up on your safe driving skills and make sure you know who has the right-of-way in these everyday traffic situations.
Commonly confused right-of-way situations
Who has right-of-way at a four-way stop?
At a four-way stop, you should yield to the driver who got to the intersection first. If you reach the intersection and come to a stop at the exact same time, yield to the driver on the right.
If another driver isn't sure who got there first or simply isn't aware of the right-of-way rules for four-way stops, they might wave you on. Proceed so that you don't delay traffic by insisting they go first! On the other hand, if it is your turn and another driver starts driving anyways, let them go. You don’t want to waste time or create a dangerous situation by trying to force your turn.
Who gets to go at an unmarked intersection?
Some intersections don't have stop signs at all. When you approach an uncontrolled intersection, slow down and drive defensively. Just like at a four-way stop, yield to any car that arrived before you or any car to your right that arrived at the same time as you.
If you come to a stop sign at an intersection where the cross traffic doesn't have a stop sign, yield to the cross traffic. Wait until there is a break in the traffic and proceed.
What's the right-of-way rule when making a left turn?
Left turns can be confusing, and many drivers don't understand right-of-way rules pertaining to left turns (even if they think they do!). When you're making a left-hand turn, you should always give the right-of-way to drivers who don't have stop signs or yield signs. If you're turning left at a green light, pull out into the intersection but wait to turn left until all oncoming traffic has passed.
If you're turning left at a four-way stop or uncontrolled intersection, you should give the right-of-way to any oncoming drivers going straight, even if you got there first. Why is this? This rule decreases the overall time all drivers spend at the intersection. When you're making a left turn, you can enter the intersection at the same time as the car going straight, and can instantly turn left as soon as they have passed.
If you think you have these rules down, test your knowledge on some other rules of the road. Are you smarter than a first-time driver? Take this quiz!
Even when you know the right-of-way rules, other drivers may not. At Direct Auto Insurance, we get it… things don't always go smoothly on the road. That's why we welcome all drivers to apply for low cost auto insurance, no matter their driving history!