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.

4-Way-Stops in Canada Demonstration Video

With Driving Instructor

4-Way-Stop Demonstration Video

4-Way Stops in canada in Action

Another 4-Way Stops in canada Demonstration

Video: 4-Way Stops in canada 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:

You can also read more about 4-Way-Stops on DriveSmartBC

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.