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Editorial: What do you do at a four-way intersection?

There are a lot of four-way intersections in the area. Some intersections aren't marked with signs and drivers are supposed to treat them as an intersection with four-way yield signs but that often doesn't happen. Some drivers assume they have the right of way through an unmarked intersection as long as they are moving and any other driver better darn well stop for them. Courtesy and common sense fly out the window.

Drivers in other towns have likely encountered the same type of bad driving. A resident sent an e-mail this week, pleading for the newspaper to address the topic. The e-mailer noted that it was his hope that printing something would prevent accidents at this time of year when roads are slick and more dangerous.

The e-mailer included a section from the Minnesota's Driver Manual, Page 41, that offers a precise description of what to do at four-way intersections: "When two vehicles reach an intersection at the same time, and there is no traffic light or signal, the driver of the vehicle on the left must yield to the vehicle on the right. When two vehicles reach an intersection at the same time, and all-way stop signs or flashing red traffic lights control the intersection, the driver on the left must yield right of way to the driver on the right."

In other words, the law says vehicles to the right have the right of way.

So what happens when drivers don't reach a four-way intersection at the same time? The general rule is whoever stops first at the intersection has the right of way. This seems pretty straightforward but again, drivers get confused or try to cut corners. Some don't really stop even when there is traffic coming from another direction; they just kind of slow down and then roll through. Another "trick" that some drivers do is to stop 20 feet or so short of the actual intersection in an attempt to show other drivers that since they were the first to stop, they should get the right of way.

The result is a lot of confusion, hesitation, impatience and the potential for an accident.

This isn't rocket science. If you're approaching a four-way intersection, with signs or without signs, use some caution, especially if other vehicles are in sight. Slow down. Stop and yield the right of way to other drivers who were there before you. If you get there at the same time as another driver, remember that the vehicle to the right should go through first. Take your turn. Be patient. Follow the law.

If all drivers did this, there would be less frustration on the roads, and more importantly, a reduced chance of a crash that sends someone to the hospital.