A riddle about left turns at two-way stop intersections

Bellingham HeraldAugust 22, 2013 

We got a traffic riddle from an anonymous reader today.

Just for fun, I figured I'd look up the answer. But after about a half-hour of tediously clicking through traffic legalese and flipping through the driver's manual, I gave up and asked folks on Twitter.

Here's the tweet:

Responses were conflicting. And for good reason.

I called up David A. Wright, a retired traffic cop and the Herald's resident Rules of the Road expert, and we spent eight minutes going over the answer.

The gist: If the arterial road is all clear, and A arrived just before B, then A has the right-of-way, because the last car to arrive at an intersection should generally yield to others. But if the arterial road is busy, and both cars are sitting there waiting for a while, then B should go first, because a car turning left should generally yield.

Clear as mud, right?

So I asked Wright, if either driver violated that etiquette, and that led to a crash, could the causing driver be cited?

"It's not impossible" to cite that driver, he said. "But frequently officers will just let that go to the insurance companies and say, 'You guys fight it out.'"

Next time I'm in that situation, either as Driver A or Driver B, I'm going to be using hand signals to make sure the other driver is on the same page about who's going first. Or I'll just put it in reverse and get the heck out of there.

(Kidding. Don't do that.)


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