By Chief Steven J. Wojnar
Dudley Police Department
Proper procedures to observe at intersections are always questions I receive for this column. I was asked to clarify who has the right of way at a four-way stop intersection. Often when numerous vehicles meet at roughly the same time, one vehicle will proceed through and a second vehicle will follow immediately behind it. This not only upsets the others waiting, it may also cause an accident. I was asked to explain the rules about four way stops.
Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 89 Sections 8 and 9, deal with right of way at intersections and stop sign regulations. When two vehicles enter an intersection “at approximately the same instant” the vehicle on the right shall have the right of way. The obligation of a driver is to stop for a stop sign and “yield the right of way to any vehicle in the intersection.” In the case of a four way stop, all operators have the obligation to stop and yield to traffic within the intersection. All share an equal responsibility. Therefore, the first vehicle to arrive at the intersection shall have the right of way as the driver is able to proceed after stopping. The other vehicles must wait until that vehicle clears the intersection before they can proceed.
The penalty for a stop sign violation is a thirty-five-dollar civil infraction. Should a second vehicle proceed behind a first vehicle, they would be guilty of this violation. It does not qualify as a legal stop to simply stop behind another vehicle. You must stop at the stop line or the nearest point where there is a clear view of approaching traffic. Rushing through an intersection can cause an accident, as most drivers at four-way stops are only watching the front vehicle stopped at the intersection. Please be aware of this issue and do your best to show courtesy to your fellow drivers.
Thanks again for your questions and comments. Please send them to me at the Dudley Police Department 71 West Main St., Dudley, Ma. 01571 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Opinions expressed in this weekly column are those of Chief Wojnar only and unless clearly noted, do not reflect the ideas or opinions of any other organization or citizen.