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Behind-the-Wheel

Dear Cop - Right Of Way

When coming to an intersection, and there are stop signs on each side of a through road, I stop, signal to turn left, and the car across the through road is coming straight through, Doesn't he have the right of way to go straight through before I turn left? I always sit and wait for them to go through and they motion for me to turn left in front of them. Am I right to let them go through, before I turn left, even if I was at the stop sign before they were? This has happened every time I come on Graham, to the stop sign on Gerstmar, turning left on Gerstmar, I wait for the car to come through from the stop sign across the road, and they always sit and wave for me to go. Aren't I right not to cross in front of the through traffic?

Right of Ways
The formal rights-of-ways rules at intersections governed by traffic signage prioritize movements of vehicles through intersections on the basis of arrival time, incoming and outgoing lanes, and the signage that regulates traffic flow.

Traffic signs, signals, and pavement markings do not always resolve conflicts. The right-of-way rule tells drivers who goes first and who must wait in different situations.

Here are the right-of-way rules in regards to most intersections governed by stop signs:

A driver approaching an intersection must yield the right-of-way to traffic already in the intersection. (Traffic in or at the intersection first has the right of way. Traffic that does not have a stop sign have the right of way over all vehicles with stop signs.)

If drivers are approaching stops signs at an intersection from opposite directions at the same time, the driver turning left must yield to the vehicle going straight or turning right. (traffic going straight or turning right has the right-of-way)

When two drivers facing a stop sign at an intersection arrived at the same time at a right angle, the driver on the left must yield the right-of way.
(the driver on the right has the right of way)

A vehicle entering a roadway from a driveway, alley, private driveway, parking lot, or any other place that is not another roadway, must stop and yield the right-of-way to traffic or pedestrian on the roadway.
Pedestrians in marked crosswalks have the right-of-way.

Traffic in a blocked intersection has the right of way. Do not enter the intersection until the traffic has cleared.

It is not an absolute right as it must be exercised in a reasonable manner. The reasonable person standard is a legal fiction that originated in the development of the common law. The reasonable person is a hypothetical individual whose view of things is consulted in the process of making decisions of law. The question, "How would a reasonable person act under the circumstances" performs a critical role in legal reasoning in areas such as negligence and contract law and with the respect for the due care for one's self and for the care of others involved.

Constable R.A.(Richard) ASELTON
Central Okanagan Traffic Services - Media Liaison


More Behind the Wheel articles

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About the Author

Tim Schewe is a retired constable with many years of traffic law enforcement experience. He has been writing his column for most of the 20 years of his service in the RCMP.

The column was 'The Beat Goes On' in Fort St. John, 'Traffic Tips' in the South Okanagan and now 'Behind the Wheel' on Vancouver Island and here on Castanet.net.

Schewe retired from the force in January of 2006, but the column has become a habit, and continues.

To comment, please email

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The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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