Whose turn is it anyway?

Everybody knows what to do when arriving at a four-way stop. You stop. That’s not the problem. The problem is that nobody knows when to go. [cointent_lockedcontent]The S.C. driver’s manual covers this. But either nobody in the state has read the manual. or the instructions are confusing.

olivia6-25 Page 4A.inddThe manual suggests — actually it’s the law — drivers do the following:

The S.C. driver’s manual says a motorist arriving at the intersection must yield the right of way to motorists who arrived before him, waiting his turn to enter the intersection. If two motorists arrive at the same time, if on different streets, the driver on the left should yield to the driver on the right; or if on the same street, a driver desiring to turn left should yield to the driver coming from the opposite direction.

This is all well and good, but this is not what happens.

Experience teaches us that when we arrive at the four-way stop and there are three other vehicles who’ve also just arrived, it may not be possible to tell who actually arrived first. If there are four vehicles there at the same time, chaos ensues.

If you draw it out on a piece of paper, you start with a cross. This represents the four-way stop. Next, draw a rectangle to the right of each arm of the cross. This represents a vehicle in the right lane, unless we’re in England, but we won’t even consider that.

So, everybody’s there at the same time. The driver on the south is supposed to yield to the driver to his right on the east. The driver on the east is supposed to yield to the driver on the north. The driver on the north is supposed to yield to the driver on the west, and the driver on the west is supposed to yield to the driver on the south. So if everyone follows that rule, either nobody goes or everybody goes, and there will be a four-car collision in the center of the intersection.

Now this is just according to my diagram. Maybe I misunderstood.

Maybe that’s why when you actually arrive at an intersection with a four-way stop everybody is afraid to go. Usually at least one driver will motion someone through. This is also a problem if more than one driver decides to motion another driver through.

I’ve actually seen two drivers motioning each other through. Neither went through, as they couldn’t decide, so I went through. Maybe I had the right of way. Maybe I didn’t.

Matters are complicated if someone doesn’t have a turn signal on and plans to turn or if they do have the turn signal on but are unaware of that and are planning to go straight ahead.

At one particular local four-way stop, the angle on one of the arms of the intersection does not form a true right angle, so if you turn onto that road, the signal doesn’t cut off and you’re in trouble at the next intersection because you may not be planning to turn at all.

There’s an old Laurel and Hardy routine known as “Who’s on first?” The people who wrote this routine were also responsible for writing the S.C. driver’s manual. Many of us find it just as helpful but sadly lacking in humor.

Want to stay safe? Stay home.