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ASK A TROOPER: Go safe way to navigate four-way stops

I am not sure if this is an area of focus for you as a trooper but could you please do an article on how to properly and legally navigate an intersection with a four-way stop? My town has several major intersections that are controlled by a four-way stop sign and I have noticed that the majority of drivers in town either don’t know or have forgotten how to properly take their turn going through the intersection. I have seen many near accidents and know of several accidents at these types of intersections that I feel could easily be avoided if people would properly adhere to the procedure for navigating a busy four-way intersection.

Four-way stops seem to raise as many questions as uncontrolled intersections. Drivers are too concerned about their own right of way, but Minnesota law tells us who is supposed to yield the right of way. The Minnesota State Statute that deals with right-of-way is 169.20, Subdivision 1, which says, “When two vehicles enter an uncontrolled intersection from different highways at approximately the same time, the driver of the vehicle on the left shall yield the right-of-way to the vehicle on the right.” It also says, “When two vehicles enter an intersection controlled by stop signs or by blinking red traffic signals requiring drivers or vehicles from any direction to stop before proceeding, the driver of the vehicle on the left shall yield the right-of-way to the vehicle on the right”.

What seems to be confusing is when three or four vehicles arrive at the intersection at close to the same time. You need to make eye contact with the other drivers and take turns according to the law.

Sometimes a turning vehicle is what throws a wrench in the works, at least for some drivers. Turning vehicles have to yield to the vehicles that are going straight. We have drivers who just go when they want at four-way stops or just plow their way through uncontrolled intersections. We also see vehicles follow others through a four-way stop, out of turn.

At this point, we need to hope that driver education instructors are doing their job of teaching this to the new drivers and that people will take that personal responsibility for their own actions behind the wheel and wait their turn at these intersections. Many of our crashes come at intersections so this is a good reminder for all drivers to be safe.

QUESTIONS CONCERNING motor vehicle traffic in Minnesota may be sent to “Ask A Trooper,” c/o Sgt. Curt S. Mowers, Minnesota State Patrol, P.O. Box 644, Brainerd, MN 56401. Or email questions to with “Ask A Trooper” in the subject line. Questions are edited.