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What's Driving You Crazy?: Is it legal to double-up at a 4-way stop to get more vehicles through?

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Posted at 5:08 AM, Nov 10, 2020
and last updated 2021-08-30 08:37:04-04

Karen from Lakewood writes, “What's driving you crazy? I grew up elsewhere and where I'm from, if there was an intersection with a 4-way stop and the road was wide enough, everyone would double up to send 2 cars across the intersection at once, helping the line of cars pass through quicker and just as safe. And if someone needed to turn right or left, you have this make-shift double lane system all ready to go. I've tried it here and almost got shot at! Example is traveling N- or S-bound on S Lowell Blvd north of Belleview. Is it illegal?”

The short answer from the multiple officers I’ve talked to about this move is no, not legal.

“Never heard of that,” says Trent Cooper, Patrol Commander for Littleton Police. “The intersection in question is not a four-way stop, it’s regulated by a traffic light. It only has one through lane for north/south traffic so the move as described would certainly be illegal, as well as dangerous. I find it interesting that someone would even consider such a move, much less give it a try, particularly at that intersection. Not even sure it would be possible, given the layout of the lanes there!”

“You definitely cannot do that,” says John Romero, Public Information Officer for the Lakewood Police Department. “If it’s designated for one lane, singular vehicular traffic that move would be a very unsafe, and an illegal passing situation. Unless a traffic sign says otherwise, it’s going to be one lane.”

MORE: Read more traffic issues driving people crazy

According to 911 Driving School, “Four-way stops are simple, in theory. They are specific intersections where all four directions of traffic come to a stop and then take turns proceeding through. Too often though, drivers pull up and don’t remember who should go through the intersection first. To help decrease confusion, here are four simple rules that can help you remember whose turn it is at a four-way stop:

  1. Go in order: Since everyone knows how to take turns, the easiest scenario is when drivers come to a stop at a four-way stop at different times. When you pull up to the intersection, notice the order of arrival. The vehicle that arrives first gets to go through the intersection first. The second person to pull up to the intersection goes through second and so on.
  2. Right goes first: If two vehicles come to a stop at the four-way stop at the same time and are side-by-side, the right-of-way goes to the person who is on the right. If you are on the left, yield to the other driver and then proceed through the intersection before anyone else who has arrived at the intersection.
  3. Straight, then turn: Two vehicles pulling up to the intersection directly across from each other means that no one is on the right. The driver who gets the right-of-way is the driver going straight. If both are going straight, there is no need to wait since both vehicles can safely go through the intersection.
  4. Right before left: In this last scenario, two cars pull up to the intersection, directly across the intersection from each other, at the same time. If one is signaling to go left and the other is signaling to go right, they both intend to turn into the same lane of traffic. The right-of-way goes to the driver who is turning right."

The only scenario that doesn’t fall into these four rules is if four vehicles all pull up to a four-way stop at the same time. There isn’t a rule to establish who has the right-of-way if this happens. There will usually be a driver who is more aggressive and pulls into the intersection first and everyone else should proceed carefully afterward.

Drivers should always use communication to keep themselves and others safe. Always use your signals to let everyone know which direction you are intending to turn. If there is any confusion at an intersection on who has the right-of-way, be courteous and use your hand to wave the other person through.

These four rules are laws that help to keep traffic flowing and everyone safe on the road. Don’t be so attached to the fact it is your turn to go through the intersection first that you neglect safety. Sometimes people get confused or don’t remember the correct order of who has the right-of-way. Yield to an aggressive driver and then proceed as usual. Don’t let yourself get caught up in escalating the situation into road rage. Do your best to follow the rules and you have the best chance of staying safe at four-way stops.”

Denver7 traffic anchor Jayson Luber says he has been covering Denver-metro traffic since Ben-Hur was driving a chariot. (We believe the actual number is over 20 years.) He's obsessed with letting viewers know what's happening on their drive and the best way to avoid the problems that spring up. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram or listen to his Driving You Crazy podcast on iTunes , Stitcher , Google Play or Podbean.