The concept of the four-way stop seems to be fairly straight forward. Most of us think we have a pretty good grasp on the process of the four-way stop, yet many times when confronted with the complexity of this convergence of traffic flow we find ourselves at a deadlock of anxiety and confusion.
There are those people who (whether they are correct or not) seem to perpetually think that it’s their turn to proceed. We also witness those individuals who may rightfully be the next in the queue but are ever ready to extend the courtesy of politeness, giving up their turn because after all “what’s the hurry?”
Still yet, we have other drivers who don’t really know who’s turn it is. Maybe they were too busy talking on their phone to notice the order in which this foursome has gathered, or maybe they just have too much on their minds to be bothered.
And the list goes on; as many different types of people there are, there are an equal amount of possibilities for situational chaos at the four-way stop.
According to the 2016 Florida Statutes, Chapter 316, section 316.123, (2)(b): at a four-way stop intersection, the driver of the first vehicle to stop at the intersection shall be the first to proceed. If two or more vehicles reach the four-way stop intersection at the same time, the driver of the vehicle on the left shall yield the right-of-way to the vehicle on the right.
Maybe it’s because I’m more of a creative type but my head doesn’t quite wrap around this definition. All this does for me is conjure up images of four cars coming to a halt at the four-way stop at exactly the same time; all of them frozen like deer in the headlights, trying to figure out who is on the left, whose left is considered the left, and who really has the right-of-way?
This brings us back to the personality types of the drivers. Inevitably someone will simply GO, someone will offer the right-of-way to someone else, and someone else will remain confused and in the dark as to what exactly happened at this pause in their journey.
This “right-of-way” conundrum had me dive further into my investigation.
This led me to Chapter 3 of the Florida Driver Handbook (the document that everyone studies in order to obtain a license to drive in the state of Florida) which states:
“Who has the right-of-way in Florida? The answer is no one! The law only says who must yield (give up) the right-of-way. Every driver, motorcyclist, moped rider, bicyclist and pedestrian must do everything possible to avoid a crash.”
“You must yield the right-of-way to all other traffic and pedestrians at stop signs. Move forward only when the road is clear. At four-way stops, the first vehicle to stop should move forward first. If two vehicles reach the intersection at the same time, the driver on the left yields to the driver on the right.”
Does this cause anyone else massive confusion? This only describes a situation with two vehicles and not three or four!
Reason says that people are passing their driving tests and earning their driver license with this information and so they must understand this concept (better than I do). But the evidence of confusion, hesitance, and accidents suggests otherwise.
This is important because we have a good amount of four-way stops in LaBelle and I have personally witnessed accidents at a number of them.
So as I come to a close I must simply end with the sentiments found in the Florida Driver Handbook: “Every driver, motorcyclist, moped rider, bicyclist, and pedestrian must do everything possible to avoid a crash.”
Take it upon yourself to be a responsible four-way stop participant. If you’re the ‘take the lead’ personality who is usually the first to go forward then please use caution. If you are the polite driver who offers up your turn to others please stop doing that and simply proceed when it is, in fact, your turn; I understand you’re being courteous but it is causing confusion and leading to more problems. And finally, if you’re the person who isn’t aware of whose turn it is, who got there first, or when you’re supposed to take your turn, please drive more mindfully, especially when approaching this confusing territory we know as the four-way stop.