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The Right-Of Way At a Two-Way Stop

At a typical two way stop intersection, the road that is appreciably busier, i.e., the road without the stop signs is the through road with the right-of-way. In the interests of keeping traffic moving steadily, it makes sense that traffic on the smaller, less traveled road should yield to traffic on the more heavily traveled through road.

When and how should the stopped driver proceed to cross or turn onto the through road? The driver at the stop sign must always yield to traffic on the through road. This means that the driver must wait until there is a break in the flow of traffic on the through road that is large enough to enable you to turn right —the easier turn because the driver is focused on one lane only—or left—the harder turn because the driver needs a break in the traffic flow in both directions. If a driver wants to cross the through road, the driver also needs a break in the traffic flow in both directions.
 
Once the gap in traffic on the through road is sufficient, left-turners must yield to drivers who wish to cross the intersection. If, however the left turner has started to make the turn and is already in the intersection, the other driver must yield.
 
Two-way stop intersections are a setting for a substantial proportion of the serious car crashes in this province. The cause of the trouble is pretty self evident to anyone with any driving experience. For instance, drivers at the stop sign often need to move far ahead into the intersection to see around trees, or hedges, or parked cars to identify a safe enough gap in the traffic flow to permit them to proceed. The drivers on the through street are often startled by the speed at which the stop sign controlled drivers approach the intersection how far they move into the intersection to watch the traffic flow on the through street.
 
Sometimes drivers coming from the side streets stop properly, and sometimes they do not. The speed of the vehicles on the through street typically ensures that the results of a collision will be devastating.
 
Two pieces of advice may be offered in this regard. First, for the driver on the through street, please note that having the right-of-way is really a qualified privilege. In the words of the courts, the right-of-way cannot be used like a suit of armour. A driver with the right-of-way is not relieved of the responsibility of making every effort to avoid a crash. Guaranteed, there will be people driving out of side streets ineptly or aggressively. Expect that someone will get in your way.
 
Second, for the side street driver, facing the stop sign, make a complete stop, and consider making a right turn whenever at all practical. This is a far less challenging and therefore less hazardous move than a left turn or an attempt to cross straight through the intersection.
 
Please drive safely.
 

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