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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.

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6 Answers 6

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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.

https://driving.ca/column/how-it-works/how-it-works-right-of-way

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

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  • 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. Commented Jun 9, 2021 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
    Commented Jun 10, 2021 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 Commented Jun 12, 2021 at 1:09
  • Could you cite a quote that specifies that a 2 way stop is regulated by uncontrolled/stop light rules vs primacy? I see your logic, but it rests on the premise that a 2 way stop is like a signal. I've seen similar laws like what you quoted, but they clearly refer to not turning if a vehicle is approaching or within the intersection, such as to avoid a hazard... In this case the opposing vehicle is stopped. That's my thinking anyway.
    – Hendy
    Commented Aug 12, 2022 at 23:14
  • And in part I admit I'm reasoning from the standpoint that it seems odd that if there were 100 cars turning right or going straight and intermittent breaks in traffic, the law would require the left turner to wait for all of them?
    – Hendy
    Commented Aug 12, 2022 at 23:16
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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.)

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  • 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) Commented Apr 21, 2016 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
    Commented Mar 17, 2020 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
    Commented Mar 17, 2020 at 23:47
  • "First to stop is first to go" is not the law. It is a result of the law: the other car is required to stop and therefore you can proceed before they can. If you are both already stopped, and have been, it doesn't apply. The one turning right has right of way because straight > right > left, not because straight traffic goes first. Commented Sep 20, 2022 at 15:05
  • This PDF is clearly about 4-way stops while the question is about 2-way stops. Not sure why this has more points than the accepted (and correct) answer. Cars don't alternate at 2-way stops, straight and right-turners go when safe (after stopping), left turners wait for an opening and "who got there first" only matters when you have 2 left turners.
    – o.h
    Commented Oct 27, 2022 at 15:19
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For anyone, like me, coming across this page because it's still the #1 result from Google:

I'm not sure if their sources have just been modified over time, but two of the three sources listed in the current chosen answer actually say the opposite of what they're arguing.

For example, in the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X4e1XPcDIZ0

There is a point where it looks like they're saying right of way goes to the vehicle turning right, but this is only because both cars arrived at the same time. If you watch to the end, he CLEARLY depicts the situation we are debating and he says whoever was there first has the right of way

In the handbook link: https://driving-tests.org/ohio/oh-bmv-drivers-handbook-manual/

On page 10, the only reference that can be remotely applied to the question's scenario also says whoever was there first has the right of way.

In the final source: https://driving.ca/column/how-it-works/how-it-works-right-of-way

As mentioned in a comment, the only reference that says the car turning left needs to yield says so because it references the opposite car as already "oncoming" and therefore it does not apply to the question's scenario.

tl;dr For cars that have a stop sign, the car that gets there first has the right of way, just like any other intersection with multiple stop signs.

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@Kevin Rettig The NHTSA document shows 4 way stops and it is correct. YOUR question is about 2 way stops crossing a road with continuous flow of traffic, and the answer given by ARK is consistent with most states. I've passed driver's tests in 5 states I can think of. 4 way: first come first served. Otherwise left turners almost always yield to all traffic coming from the opposite direction. Same as if there was a blinking yellow light.

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I disagree with the interpretation given of this statement here: "A driver must yield the Right of Way to oncoming traffic when making a left turn." The issue is that a person across the road from you is not oncoming, that driver is currently stopped. My understanding is that right-of-way is determined in the case of who is entering the flow of traffic, and who has to cross lanes of that traffic. A person crossing an intersection such as this is crossing two lanes of traffic, a left turn is crossing one lane and entering the flow of traffic, a person turning right is directly entering the flow of traffic. The order, then, would be 1st: Right turn, 2nd: Left turn, 3rd: Straight.

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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.

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    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? Commented Aug 19, 2019 at 17:24

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