Getting safely through uncontrolled intersections

The in basket: Terri Babcock of Bremerton asks “Does it still say in the driver’s manual that when one comes upon an uncontrolled intersection (no stop signs or lights) that the person arriving first always has the right of way? Even over those passing straight through?

“That’s what I learned in California,” she said “and since I live near one of those (which are becoming increasingly rare) I still always pause if another car is coming, because I KNOW that the person on my left going straight through will not stop.”

“Am I remembering this correctly? I doubt if  my neighbors even know the rule, but it’ll make me feel better if I’m right.”

The out basket: Terri has it part right, but the part she has wrong could cause an accident.

The state Drivers Manual has this to say about uncontrolled intersections: “At an intersection where there is no stop sign, yield sign, or traffic signal, drivers must yield to vehicles in the intersection and to those coming from the right.”

It also says, “Drivers turning left must yield to oncoming vehicles and pedestrians and bicyclists.”

“Vehicles in the intersection” and “the person arriving first” mean about the same thing, but the wording doesn’t accord that first arriver the right to turn left in front of oncoming traffic.

I would add that slowing down at any uncontrolled intersection is an excellent idea regardless of what other cars are approaching and from what direction, and even deferring to other traffic though you have the right of way can save a lot of hassle if the other drivers seem unsure. I think those intersections exist mostly on 25 mph residential streets anyway.

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