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Ask a trooper: Courtesy, safety more important than who goes first at four-way stop

Q: People seem very confused at a four-way stop. They don't seem to know who should go first. Please help!

A: I get asked this question a lot, probably because of the actions of aggressive drivers out there.

Police don't sit and watch to make sure that everyone is taking turns and going in the right order. The bottom line is that we don't crash. The only thing the law says is that you have to yield to the driver on your right. If you are the first one there you should be the first one to go -- see M.S.S. 169.20 Sub 1(b).

We seem to have a lot of problems when there is a lot of traffic. Typically, the turning traffic needs to yield to the straight ahead traffic. It is important to signal your intention to turn, so other drivers can adjust. We see that what often happens is that when one driver is going straight ahead, the driver coming in the opposite direction will go, too, and then the other direction of traffic will do the same thing. That works out well, until a driver wants to turn, and other drivers don't seem to know what to do. Having eye contact with the other drivers helps a lot, because you can gesture someone to go.

We need to be courteous and not be concerned about who has the right of way. We just need to get through these intersections safely, without a crash. I hope this helps. Don't be in a hurry, and drive defensively, using common sense and patience. Thanks for asking.

Sgt. Curt S. Mowers is a regional public information officer for the Minnesota State Patrol.

Email or mail your question to Duluth News Tribune, Attn: Ask the State Trooper, 424 W. First St., Duluth, MN 55802. You may remain anonymous if you choose.