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).
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.
Thanks for the great question!