4-way Stops -> Like a Boss

Three-way stops, Four-way stops, Five-way stops, All-way Stops (These all work the same)


  • Four-way stops commonly have a tab on the bottom of the sign.
  • Two-way stops may or may not also have a tab.
  • Look for the backs of signs for the other traffic to be certain what type of intersection you are at before assuming.
  • Read this post for more info on confusing types of intersections: Q: What-Way-Stop?
  • If you’re looking for more information on stop-sign intersections, check out the eBook I wrote for new drivers & all drivers.

    Stop Signs eBook

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Demo – Driving Lesson with beginner student driver:



Demo: with driving instructor


Demo: Observe



Demo: Explained



For three-way, four-way, and five-way stops, each car should come to a complete stop prior to moving. Here are some guidelines:


• Whichever car stops first should go first. If yours is the second car to arrive, you should be the second to go (and so on.) It doesn’t matter at this point which direction the cars are going or who is on the right or left; simply go in order of arrival.


• If two cars arrive at the same time, yield to the right because the car on the right will clear the intersection faster than if the one on the left goes first. (This is because we drive on the right half of the road. When the car on the right goes first, it travels only half way across the road before it is out of your way. If the car on the left moves first, it will have to travel across the entire intersection before being out of the way. And since the point of driving is usually to get to a destination, this is a good system that keeps things moving in an efficient manner.


• If you are situated on the left, start moving when the car is out of your way (hesitate only if the car is turning left). You do not have to watch the driver disappear over the horizon before you start moving. Be assertive so that cars arriving after you will not be confused. This means taking your foot off the brake and letting your car begin to roll when you know it is your turn. Other drivers will then know you are getting ready to turn. If you hesitate, your four-way stop can quickly turn into a confusing staring contest.


• If you stop at the same time as another car, left-turning cars should yield to cars going straight.


• If you stop at the same time as another car, left-turning cars should yield to right-turning cars, allowing the intersection to clear quickly.


• If you are both turning left and facing each other, or if you are both going straight and facing each other, you may be able to go at the same time as long as you know the other driver is going to follow through. Use caution and make sure the next move is obvious. Hesitate if necessary.


• If you are both turning right, or if all vehicles are turning right, normally you could go at the same time as long as the road isn’t too narrow and there is a shared certainty of expected movement. Pedestrians can confuse drivers in the four-way stop just as they can confuse the two-way stop! If it is not your turn to go, and other vehicles are being slowed by pedestrians crossing, you could take the right of way when it is obviously safe to do so.


• If four cars arrive at the same time….. Hmmmm…. This doesn’t happen very often. Show courtesy and look at the intended direction of each vehicle’s turn. If all drivers want to go straight, the problem is greater than if they all want to turn right. Keep in mind that you can control the speed of your vehicle; if you see three other cars approaching at almost the same time, you could approach the intersection slower than the others in order to avoid too much confusion.**Did you know that the 4-way Stop does not exist in the Motor Vehicle Act? This means we must use common sense, and courtesy if we aren’t 100% sure what to do at a 4-way stop; such as when 4 cars stop at the same time. Technically there is no laws or rules to guide us with this. I would say let the Porsche go before the Honda Civic! 


• Always establish eye contact with other drivers at a four-way stop. When you have eye contact, check the roads for a driver that might be about to run through the intersection without noticing the stop sign. Drivers don’t hit things they can see, but might hit you if they don’t see the stop sign and drive through the intersection at any given rate of speed. Don’t be anxious, but do check and be prepared to act. Realize that there are other ways to avoid collisions besides slowing down or slamming on your brakes. In certain instances you could avoid collisions by speeding up to get out of the way.




Q: If 4 cars stop at a 4-way stop at the same time, who goes first?

The 4-way stop intersection does not exist in the motor vehicle act, so we must use our best judgment and be cautious and courteous at 4-way stops, as the rules for stop signs indicate that you not proceed until you know it is safe (I know, this is not very helpful information).


What I would recommend if this happens to you frequently is to control the speed of your vehicle so that you don’t stop at the exact same time as the other vehicles. If you see 3 other vehicles approaching, simply slow down earlier than the other vehicles and stop after them; it is much easier to figure out who goes first if there are only 3 cars.


As always, make a very obvious and clear stop – avoid rolling up to the stop sign so slowly that the other drivers aren’t sure when exactly you stopped. Don’t give yourself whiplash, but do make it obvious; this can help as well.


Also, look at the direction the drivers say they want to go. If all 4 cars want to go straight, that is a much larger problem than if they all want to turn right.


The most obvious answer to this question is to go in order of engine size: Ferrari, Corvette, Nissan 370Z, then Kia (no offence) for example. You could also go in order of colour. Since red cars go faster than others, red should always go first, then yellow, then white, then black.


Just Kidding.


Q: At 4-way-stops, do I have to Wait for the Other Car to Stop Before I can Go?


Question : I arrive first at the for way stop. There is another car in the opposite direction approaching the intersection. Do I have to wait for this car to arrive to the intersection and stop at the stop sign or should I go ahead before he reaches the intersection and not wait for him to arrive at the intersection and make a full stop?


Answer: Normally you do not wait; the car that stops first, should go first. (Of course, 4-way stops work quite well when everybody actually stops. If drivers don’t see the stop sign, then they can be quite a dangerous intersection; and I have seen cars drive through 4-way stops at full speed on several occasions).


One instance where I would recommend being very cautious with this is when I’m about to turn left. Say the 2 vehicles are approaching each other, you’ve stopped, but you’re not sure the other vehicle is actually going to stop (i.e. the speed of the vehicle is still quite high). Sometimes drivers do not see the stop sign. This would be potentially dangerous, since you’re crossing the path of the other car.




In this case, I usually hesitate until I’m 100% sure the driver is going to stop, and then proceed. If he’s not slowing down at all, then flash your high beams or honk so that others do not get injured. Some stop signs are very difficult to see, like this 4-way stop intersection in Burnaby for example: (by the way, it’s illegal to park a vehicle so that it is blocking the view of the stop sign like this, but this seems to happen anyway).


ohhiddenstopsign copy copy


If you’re planning to go straight ahead, then the situation doesn’t seem quite as dangerous as a left turn: even if the driver facing you doesn’t see the stop sign, there is still no potential conflict between the two vehicles unless he is planning a left turn, in which case, he should yield to you even if he doesn’t see the stop sign.


Remember to also scan the intersection Left and Right before proceeding. Just because there’s a stop sign, doesn’t mean people are going to stop. Don’t be paranoid, but do be cautious and observant.


Q: What should I do if I encounter a cyclist at a 4-way stop?


Answer: Treat him/her as a car, just like you would treat any other car at a 4-way stop. Cyclists are required to follow the road rules just as cars do. This means they could get a speeding ticket, and are required to stop at stop signs, red lights, etc. If you encounter a cyclist at a crosswalk, then treat him/her more like a pedestrian.

Sometimes there is a 5-Way Stop


The 5 way stop works exactly like the 4-way stop (and the 3 way stop, and the All-Way stop).


That means:

  • Whoever stops first, should go first.

If you stop at the same time:

  • Yield to the vehicle on your right
  • Left turns yield to right turns
  • Left turns yield to straight thru traffic

When unsure, use courtesy.


  • Denice

    The age old rule for 4-ways – each direction takes turns counter-clockwise. In a city with constant traffic, say when power is out…. and 2 lanes of thru traffic in each direction, including a left-turn lane. The rule is even more important in this scenario. Otherwise the left hand turn is perilous. The secret being. If north bound straight thru lanes advance thru intersection – most often you will see the southbound straight thru lanes follow in kind. (as if in fact the lights were working), this creates the problem for the north bound turn lane – they are left out and must inch and squeeze thru, with potential advancing traffic. Following the Old standby rule, allows each direction equal turns, one care, each lane, advances. next to move, is to the right, northbound, westbound, southbound, eastbound, northbound, etc. not 2 opposing at same time when turn lanes are present.

  • Sam


    I have my N driving test tomorrow. I am very confused on how to stop at the middle of intersection of you want to take left and person in front also wants to ale left.

    Especially for the intersection where there are separate roads for left and right. You have to stop in the middle of the intersection before taking left. Do you stop on left side so that you can easily take left. Or do you stay at right during middle of intersection and take left when clear.

    I am finding it difficult to explain the intersection but it can be any intersection when you get on king Edwards highway in point grey area.

    Pls help

    • Saurabh

      Cleared it .. boo yeahhh ..

      just a couple of marks on my assessment sheet for right turns (turn position), other than that a spotless sheet.

      I just used this blog, few youtube videos and a lot of driving around Point Grey area. Thankyou for having this up and maintained.

      • Oh nice!! Congra’ts!!! your welcome :))) Happy N’ing!!!

  • Tom Tuttle

    I wonder how you feel about the 4 way intersection at Maple & York. It is a two-way stop, but the stop sign has a tab (saying two-way). While riding my bike through I noticed the tab and hesitated thinking it was a four-way, but after going and taking a look it was found to say two-way in yellow. Unusual? This seems to invalidate your first sentence, that a tab indicates it is not a two-way intersection.

    • It seems that sentence was written in haste. I’ve fixed it. Thanks for that! 🙂

      • By the way I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many signs at one small intersection in my entire life! I counted 21 signs and tabs!