The traffic on the main road (with no stop signs) of course has first right of way. Suppose two cars are across from each other turning onto the main road. One is turning right and one is turning left (to both ultimately go the same direction). Who has right of way?

  1. Is it the person turning right?
  2. Is it the person who got to the stop sign first?

Does the answer change if there's a whole line of people turning right from one side and a whole line of people turning left from the other side?

I'm looking for the general rule in the United States. If the state matters, I'm in Ohio.


This scenario is covered in every state I've looked at, including Ohio, with a rule like "A driver must yield the Right of Way to oncoming traffic when making a left turn." The rules of 4-way stop signs are a special case, and do not necessarily apply at 2-way stops.

https://driving-tests.org/ohio/oh-bmv-drivers-handbook-manual/ Page 40.

This explanation can help you see the logic:

At a two-way stop when you’re at a stop sign, you obviously yield to traffic crossing in front of you. But if you’re making a left-hand turn, you’re expected to yield to any vehicle that’s facing you and coming across the intersection – even if you had to wait for traffic to clear and that driver got there after you did. (If that doesn’t make sense to you, picture the intersection with traffic lights. No matter who arrived first, when the light turns green, you always wait for cars to proceed before you make a left-hand turn. This is the same, only with signs instead of red lights.)

In almost all driving situations, when you’re making a left-hand turn, you are expected to yield to other vehicles, including when a driver facing you is turning right.


Here's a video from a driving school that covers the same situation (The second intersection in the video) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X4e1XPcDIZ0

  • I agree this is usually how I drive, I wouldn't necessarily expect a car opposite me to yield to my left turn even if I got there first. The part about the left-turner needing to yield at a traffic light is interesting, but you can make the opposite argument if you replace the 2-way stop with a 4-way stop instead of a traffic light - at a 4-way stop, the left-turner should go when it's their "turn", they shouldn't yield to everybody going straight or turning right across their path who got there later. Jun 9 at 13:54
  • Yes, that's why I pointed out that the rules of the 4-way stop are the special case. That logic is often used to erroneously assume that the person turning left has right-of-way at the 2 way stop. If there are no cars on the uncontrolled street when two opposing drivers approach on the controlled street, primacy does dictate Right of Way. However, if waiting for traffic on the uncontrolled street occurs, then Right of Way goes to the person going straight/turning right, and the person turning Left must yield.
    – plattitude
    Jun 10 at 16:50
  • I changed the accepted answer to this one as it provides links that exactly match the scenario described in the original question Jun 12 at 1:09

The NHTSA gives rules for the United States.

Right of way goes to the first person to stop. So if a line of cars were at both stop signs, and all cars wanted to make the same conflicting turns, they would alternate.

If the opposing cars stop at the same time then the one turning right has the right of way. (This is because a right turn falls under the "Straight Traffic Goes First" rule.)

  • Also note that a right turn only has traffic flowing in the same direction to contend with. Left turns must contend with both lanes on the cross (main) street) Apr 21 '16 at 16:36
  • "If the opposing cars stop at the same time then the one turning right has the right of way." I think this can vary by state; the state I'm in now is the opposite of the state where I learned to drive in this regard.
    – Andy
    Mar 17 '20 at 23:40
  • @Andy are you in the U.S.? If so can you provide any reference suggesting that anywhere in the U.S. a car turning right does not have the right of way in that scenario?
    – feetwet
    Mar 17 '20 at 23:47

Straight through and right turn movements will always have the right of way regardless of which vehicle arrives at the intersection first. It should be noted that once at the stop sign, they all start from stop. Either vehicle can only proceed with their respective movement when there is no traffic on the major roadway, or there is a safe gap in the traffic. Once that condition presents itself, the situation will be as if there in no stop sign and the left turning vehicle has to yield the right of way to the opposing through and right turn traffic.

  • 2
    ARK- You comments seem to conflict with the rules provided by the NHTSA from the link above. Do you have a source you can site? Aug 19 '19 at 17:24

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.