October 06, 2006

The Not-So-Hidden Lessons of the Four Way Stop

As a marginally humorous ThunderJournalist, with an influential readership numbering at least one or two, I occasionally take the opportunity to abuse my position of ThunderJournal power to get stuff off my chest that's been bothering me for awhile.

For example, way back when, I wrote about the importance of using your turn signal at intersections which, judging by the continued lack of turn signaling I've observed since that time, very few people took my ThunderJournal advice to heart.

Undeterred, and because I can't think of anything else to write about, I thought I'd point out another dereliction of driving duty that apparently plagues Minnesota.

There's really no way to pretty this up, so I'll just come out blunt and say it:

For the love of Zeus, people, learn the common driving rules regarding intersections with four-way stop signs. I simply can't believe how many times each day I encounter motorists who apparently don't have the first clue what to do when they find themselves at a four-way stop intersection.

It's really quite simple. In fact, it's probably one of the simplest rules of driving, second only to: "gas pedal make car go; brake make car stop."

But, here it is again, for those of you in the back of the class playing with your spit bubbles:

At a four-way stop intersection, you take turns when it comes to proceeding through the intersection, based on the time-honored "first come, first served" basis. If you're the first motorist to reach the intersection, then you're the first one who gets to proceed. If there's a tie, then the motorist to your right gets the advantage. See how easy that is?

Having now established the rules of the four-way stop intersection, let me just expand on some of the non-rules I've observed—much to my irritation—being practiced by my fellow motorists.

The Mannerly Wave-Through: I can't tell you how many times I've been second or third to an intersection and waited for just shy of an eternity, only to have the other motorists—who clearly were there before me—wave me through. People, this is not a good manners game. This is driving. This is not about who gets to have the last slice of pizza or cake. If you're there first, you get to go. Let's not waste everybody's time with a "aww, shucks, you get a move-on l'll pardner" wave of the hand.

The Uncertain Stop–N–Go: Admittedly, sometimes it's tough to judge who, exactly, gets to an intersection first. Even baseball umpires would have a difficult time making some four-way stop calls. Still, if you're going to take the initiative to go through the intersection. . . COMMIT TO IT. Don't do one of those uncertain stutter-steps into the intersection, then start again, then stop, then start again, then stop. It's the equivalent of two people trying to walk around each other but they keep choosing the same direction until someone jokingly says "care to dance?" You're in a car, for crying out loud; make the executive decision and go through the intersection, regardless of your lingering doubts.

The "Chance To Do Something Else" Brain Fart: If you're the loser when it comes to arriving at an intersection (meaning you're the fourth one), don't take it as an opportunity to get something else done while you wait. You'd be surprised how fast an orderly four-way stop intersection can proceed, so it's best to stay alert. Which means, don't take the time to fiddle with the radio, or apply lipstick, or read the paper. Your turn will come up sooner than you think, so it's best to be prepared. If you're not paying attention, you'll miss your turn, and that throws everyone else who arrived at the intersection after you completely out of whack. Suddenly, you'll have a perfect storm of four-way stop non-rules happening at the same time. You'll see all sorts of irritated Mannerly Wave-Throughs and a plethora of Uncertain Stop–N–Gos, all because of your ill-advised "Chance To Do Something Else" Brain Fart. PAY ATTENTION!

Thank you for reading this week's installment of "Driving for Dummies." Tune in next time when I take on the issue of "Pedestrian Right of Way."

Posted by Ryan at October 6, 2006 10:07 AM | TrackBack

Amen to that, my wife will actually take alternative routes as to avoid to dreaded 4-way stops......

It reminds of a long ago post about those damn stop lights on west circle drive on HWY 14, I used to live in the manor and know exactly what you were getting at....Those lights are out ot get ya.

Posted by: Bob at October 6, 2006 10:44 AM

And those lights are STILL terrible. Especially around 5 p.m. No rhyme or reason to them. Damn they're annoying!

Posted by: Ryan at October 6, 2006 10:50 AM

This may sound odd, but it's surprisingly effective:

When walking in a crowd I will actually signal my intended direction when approaching someone head-on. I point my flat hand in the direction that I'm going to go around the person I'm approaching, and unusual though it is, it's rarely misunderstood -- they go the other way and I rarely end up doing the "stranger dance".

In driving, if the other person hesitates, I just go. of course sometimes the blockages are just unavoidable in cars.

Posted by: Stephen Rider at October 14, 2006 06:50 PM
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