My grasp of the workings of a four-way stop are as follows: all four ways stop. On the face of it, this does not seem to be too complicated. Nor does it appear to be a task that is unteachable. The key words in those sentences are “seem” and “appear.”
Even with the simplest endeavors (e.g., stop then go) human nature enters the fray. Humans, you understand, are the ones driving the vehicles … the very vehicles that are encouraged to do the stopping and then the going. I cannot even broach the idea of self-driving cars. On the other hand, maybe self-driving cars do not try to text or put on make-up while motoring down I-75 at 80 miles an hour.
The problem with people at four-way stops can be broken down into two main categories. (1) They don’t know when to go. (2) They don’t know when to stop. Even at four way stops with multiple lanes, there are a finite number of cars involved at the intersection at any one moment. Yet many drivers cannot seem to keep track of when it is their turn. This results in many amusing stops and starts while fellow motorists try to second-guess what those who hesitate intend to do. For those of us who occasionally pay attention when driving, this behavior is maddening. This is not rocket science. This is a stop sign. Perhaps we should not imbue it with more difficulty than life already presents.
Let’s discuss the first category … the person who does not go at the appropriate time. On the odd chance there is another driver at the intersection who has actually kept track of the correct sequence, confusion reigns. Should they go ahead and take their turn out of rotation? Should they beep their horns in an encouraging yet non-threatening manner? Should they sit there and wait until they grow old and die which makes the issue of getting through the intersection a little less pressing?
Suppose they choose option one. They go out of rotation. There is absolutely no guarantee several other drivers haven’t hit upon the same idea. At the same time. Now you have multiple drivers, all of whom are more than willing to get down the street and on with their travels edging their way into what will shortly become a very densely populated piece of asphalt. At the sight of other motorists moving, the correct party might even find their own accelerator (not to mention consciousness) and enter the intersection as well. They are unfailingly quite indignant that someone has tried to preempt what they now realize is their turn.
I would encourage other drivers to be extremely cautious in choosing option two … the gentle beep beep on the horn. Road rage is rampant. I just completed my concealed carry weapon course (about which more in a few weeks) and I can tell you there are some certifiably crazy people with hair-trigger tempers (no pun intended … don’t shoot) packing heat out there.
Drivers who choose option three and die waiting for their turns are just going to clog up the intersection worse so please think carefully before simply giving up.
The second category … those who don’t know when to stop are, if anything, even more troubling. These are the people who assume it is always their turn. We’ve all run into this type of person, not literally one hopes, but in this case entirely possible. This person has no intention of waiting for the correct time to go through the intersection. They assume other drivers will give way to them. Or they assume their vehicle is protected by an imaginary safety shield. Or they assume, as outlined previously, it is always their turn. I’m really not too sure what it is they assume but the end result is the same. Here they come, ready or not. Unfortunately, there is a subset A of the people who don’t know when to stop. This is the tagger-onner. That’s probably not an actual sanctioned word but it’s the best I can come up with to describe the second car in line who tags onto the first car and goes through the intersection about four millimeters from that bumper. Sometimes less.
Drivers who don’t drive when it is their turn to drive drive their fellow drivers crazy. Admittedly, this is a very short trip for some of us, probably involving many four-way stops.
Marla Boone resides in Covington and writes for the Troy Daily News and Piqua Daily Call.