4-Way-Stops in Canada

Ah the magic and fun of mastering the 4-Way-Stops in Canada.

Three-way stops, Four-way stops, Five-way stops, All-way Stop Intersections in Canada

These all work the same

Four-way stops in Canada 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?

4-Way-Stop Sign Red and White Tab Canada

To help you with the magic and fun of mastering the 4-Way-Stop Intersection in Canada, check out some videos below.


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

Mastering the 4-Way-Stop Rules in Canada

First Come, First Serve

Here are some basic guidelines that can help you with the magic and fun of mastering the 4-Way-Stop Intersection in Canada.

  • 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.

Two cars stopping at the same time

If two cars arrive at the same time, yield to the right. The car on the right will clear the intersection faster than if the one on the left went 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 to like, get somewhere, this is a good system that keeps things moving in an efficient manner.

If you’re on the left

If you are situated on the left, start moving when the first 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

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

Also, left-turning drivers should yield to right-turning drivers. This allows 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.

This is only safe 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.

This only works safely if 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… 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.

Are you feeling more confident about the magic and fun of mastering the 4-Way-Stop Intersection in Canada? You’re doing great… Just keep reading!

Make eye contact at 4-way stops in Canada

whenever possible

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 – on purpose – hit things they can see, but might hit you if they don’t see the stop sign.

They might 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.

Drivers' view of a 4-Way-Stop intersection in Canada

Question: If 4 cars stop at a 4-way stop at the same time…

who goes first?

Of course, the magic and fun of mastering the 4-Way-Stop Intersection in Canada would not be complete without the answer to this interesting but very real question.

The 4-way stop intersection does not specifically exist in the motor vehicle act, so we must use our best judgment and be cautious and courteous at 4-way stops.

The rules for stop signs basically indicate that you not proceed until you know it is safe (I know, this is not specific or helpful information).

What I would recommend if this happens to you frequently is to control the speed of your vehicle.

This way, 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.

Avoid confusing other drivers with ‘Rolling Stops’

not to be confused with ‘Rolling Stones’

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.

Where are the other drivers intending to go?

Also, pay attention to 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.

Question: 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).

Use caution and consider your movements

One instance where I would recommend being very cautious with this is when you’re 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.

Diagram of a 4-way Stop Intersection in Canada with one car Turning Left

No Rush

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 beautiful Burnaby, Canada 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, and we have to deal with it and stay safe as drivers.

Can you spot the hidden Stop Sign?

Intersection in Canada with Camper Van blocking view of a Stop Sign

Always Scan Intersections Before Proceeding

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.

Stop signs can’t stop cars.

Don’t be paranoid, but do be cautious and observant.

Question: 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, a cyclist is part car and part pedestrian, even though this sounds confusing.


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.

Now, hopefully you’re feeling much better about the magic and fun of mastering the 4-Way-Stop Intersection in Canada.

Traffic Lights Out?

If you’re driving and find an intersection that has traffic lights that are not working, treat as a 4-way stop intersection. Be extra careful, of course.


Carmen became a driving instructor at the age of 22 in North Vancouver, Canada. She enjoys writing as much as driving, and hopes you have found this website helpful.

22 thoughts on “4-Way-Stops in Canada

  1. There is something that I don’t see written explicitly, but was taught to me specifically in driver education. I’m looking for confirmation.
    Typically, right-of-way at a four-way stop is assigned to whoever arrives first, and follows as you have explained above. When an intersection becomes busy, right-of-way alternates in alternate directions, so north-south traffic clears the intersection (one in each direction), and then east-west traffic clears the intersection.
    What I was taught, is that at any time, if two vehicles opposite one another are at complete rest at the same time (regardless of who arrived first), the car travelling straight has right-of-way over a car turning across that driver’s lane.
    For example, let’s say the north-south vehicles are taking their turn through the intersection, and both pass straight through. Following that, it is the turn of the east-west drivers. Now, the east driver had arrived first, and is waiting to make a left turn. the west driver arrived a few seconds afterward, but is travelling straight. However, because both were at rest at the same time waiting for north-south traffic to clear, they then proceed as though they both arrived together: the turning vehicle gives right-of-way to the vehicle travelling straight.
    We went through this several times during my instruction, and it makes total sense. When two vehicles opposite one another are both at complete rest, regardless of who arrived first, these vehicles proceed with the right-of-way stating that through-drivers have right-of-way over drivers turning left across their lane.

  2. Can someone change there mind about which way they are turning at a 4 way stop. Before they start the turn and when there is no traffic at any other stops. Or does the you must have your signal on 100 ft before a turn apply. This is a frustrating law that has become a huge question in my town.

  3. There is an intersection in my neighbourhood that causes a lot of confusion. It is a 4 way stop (4 way sign under stop sign) but it has 2 pull out lanes for right turns (each with another stop sign but no 4 way sign under them) as well as 2 left turn lanes.
    I would appreciate some clarification on this since I have young drivers that I would like to educate on the proper use of this intersection.
    If I am approaching the intersection and using one of the right turn lanes do I have to wait until the entire intersection is cleared before I get right of way (I could be here all day since it’s a busy one) or do I proceed with right of way in order of cars approaching the intersection as an ALL WAY stop situation?
    The lanes are as follows from the north side of the intersection there is 1 lane to go south and 1 lane going north (2 lanes only from the north), from the south there is a right turn lane (with separate stop sign) and a lane to go north and a left (west) turn lane (3 lanes from the south), from the east there is one lane to go west (straight) and a left south turn lane as well as a lane going east (3 lanes from the east) from the west there is a right turn separate lane (with stop sign) and a lane to go east as well as a lane going west (3 lanes).
    In total there are 11 lanes at this intersection.
    Can you help me with this?

      1. Carmen the intersection is in West Vancouver just after you get off the Caulfeild Exit 4. After you turn left from HWY 1 exit you will hit this 4 way stop.
        The street names are a bit confusing because there are several at this intersection.
        To the north is Northwood Dr (lots of drivers coming from this direction barely even stop), to the south is Headland Dr, to the west is Westport Rd and the road to the east where the highway exits onto is Woodgreen Dr.
        I can send you a google map screen shot if that would help or you could google map it yourself and see what I mean by how confusing it is.

        1. I’m checking it out.. I used to teach driving lessons on the North Shore for many years so I am sure I know it. I’m checking the map!

        2. Oh yes this one is fun, isn’t it. I’m waiting for a new dashboard camera in the mail as mine broke; As soon as I get that I will go there and make a video as I always need new stuff for my blog anyway (thanks for the great example of challenging intersection). I hope that will help.

          In the meantime -my hopefully not-too-convoluted answer- would be that the drivers facing the regular or ‘non-4-way-stop’ sign, should treat this just like they would any other stop sign, since that is exactly what it is!! A regular ole stop sign… So we stop completely, yield to any pedestrians, and then if necessary, inch the vehicle forward slowly if visibility is blocked (due to other vehicles stopping for the 4-way stop sign or moving through the intersection in this case…) and/or if not necessary to inch forward, simply proceed when safe.

          You don’t really get a ‘turn’ to go, (thank goodness too because I am not sure how to teach 11-way stop procedures lol) so your job is to figure out who is going where, and when you can safely go. Simple example: If there are 3 other cars at the intersection and they are all turning right, then there’s no conflict; you can all merrily proceed at the same time if you know for sure the other cars are actually going to turn. I know that doesn’t happen too often but you get what I mean. When you’re turning right you need to know who you need to worry about – other vehicles going straight or turning left, not vehicles turning to their right. If possible, while you are approaching, try to get a general idea of which order the other cars might be proceeding in.

          The other thing to make sure new drivers are aware of is not to trust the turn signals of the other vehicles. If it has a turn signal flashing, this doesn’t mean the car will actually turn. Or sometimes it has no signal and it turns. so don’t move before you are sure it is 110% safe. But by all means if you stop and you see a safe gap, then go for it. Otherwise you are right, you might be there all day.. and we all know you got in your car to like.. go places. lol :) At the very least, You should be able to go at the same time as the car relatively beside you at the 4-way stop, if there is one there going straight ahead, shouldn’t you? At that moment it would be almost impossible to have a conflict/collision with any other vehicle at the intersection. It kind of acts as a shield for you. That might not work if it went left, however, as opposing left turns might move simultaneously.

          Hope that all made sense…

          (sorry for the delayed response, by the way) I will make some diagrams up ASAP !! :)

        3. http://drivinginstructorblog.com/question-on-caulfield-highway-exit-4-way-stop-intersection-west-vancouver/

          I tried to make some sense.. Not sure if it worked.

  4. **Need some Help Please**

    I stopped the same time as Truck to the right of me **BUT** ….
    at that very same moment, there was still a car turning left from “Truck Guys” lane

    So I watch this car go by me and the then “Trunk Guy” goes next (Left Turn again) because he thinks he stopped before me, regardless of the car previously in front of him turning.

    So for my question….does his right of way matter if the car from his lane is still completing its turn.

    I hope not, because why should two car from the same lane go back to back because one is slow turning?

    I’m super angry right now. Someone, please let me know if I’m wrong! He had such a douchey face too! ahh just got know… thanks

  5. I have question. I am a cyclist and I was at a 4-way today, I had stopped and was going straight to the other side of the street. There was a car to my left turning right, and a car passing by my right going past me. The car that was turning was at a complete stop and the car going past me was not yet clear of the intersection as I went to cross the road. As soon as I started to cross the car to my left began turning, but the car going past me had still not cleared the intersection. The owner of the turning car began yelling at me and swearing as I went past and did not stop turning and almost hit me. I thought I was clear to go as another car was passing in front of the turning car and he was stopped but should I have waited?

    1. Who stopped first? It sounds like all 3 were trying to move at the same time? I’m not sure exactly what you mean either can you send a diagram?

  6. 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.

  7. Hi

    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

    1. 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.

  8. 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.

      1. **Need some Help Please**
        I stopped the same time as Truck to the right of me **BUT** ….
        at that very same moment, there was still a car turning left from “Truck Guys” lane
        So I watch this car go by me and the then “Trunk Guy” goes next (Left Turn again) because he thinks he stopped before me, regardless of the car previously in front of him turning.
        So for my question….does his right of way matter if the car from his lane is still completing its turn.
        I hope not, because why should two car from the same lane go back to back because one is slow turning?
        I’m super angry right now. Someone, please let me know if I’m wrong! He had such a douchey face too! ahh just got know… thanks

        1. Hi. You said yourself you stopped “the same time as Truck to the right of me” So normally if 2 vehicles stop at the same time, we would simply yield to the right. I know what you are saying, but paying attention to slow vehicles exiting is just a distraction really.. I hope that made sense. That’s just my opinion.

          1. Mr. Rightofway stopped at the same time as the the truck… but the truck was one vehicle behind the solid white line on the road (ie one vehicle back in que). Truck driver should not have gone first. People do this all time.

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