Question: At a two-way stop (through traffic on the other two legs), how does the right of way work for the two or more vehicles at the stop signs? As I understand it, if two vehicles stop at opposite legs at the same time, the vehicle going straight or turning right has the right of way over the one turning left once the intersection is clear of all through traffic.
Answer: I would agree with your understanding.
Question, part 2: However, let's say I am the vehicle turning left that took the second position to vehicle one across the intersection that went straight through. If a vehicle is behind vehicle one across the intersection, I do not have to wait for that vehicle as well, do I?
Answer: Again, I would agree that you do not have to wait for the second vehicle as you would have arrived at the stop sign first and should be allowed to proceed.
Question, part 3: Conversely, if I pull up to an intersection where a vehicle is stopped across the way and we both are waiting for through traffic, that vehicle has the right of way regardless of whether they are turning in front of me (assuming I am going straight through or turning left and not using my "free right turn" option), correct? In that case, once through traffic has cleared, should it be my responsibility to let the other vehicle through first before crossing?
Answer: This is a section that causes quite a bit of discussion and where I would disagree with you. RCW 46.61.180 talks about vehicles approaching an intersection from right angles and yielding to the vehicle on the right. RCW 46.61.185 Vehicle turning left -- The driver of a vehicle intending to turn to the left within an intersection or into an alley, private road, or driveway shall yield the right-of-way to any vehicle approaching from the opposite direction which is within the intersection or so close thereto as to constitute an immediate hazard.
The discussion comes when you are deciding if there is preference given to the vehicle that arrived at the stop sign first, or if it no longer matters because both vehicles are stopped waiting for the cross traffic to clear. As a driver, my choice is to make eye contact with the other driver and allow the straight-through vehicle to go first when traffic clears as the Failure to Yield during left turn is a very easy ticket to write.
ABOUT RULES OF THE ROAD
Rules of the Road is a regular column with questions and answers on road laws, safe driving habits and general police practices.
Answers come from David Wright, a retired officer from the Bellingham Police Department who is now serving on the Whatcom County Traffic Safety Task Force.
For previous Rules of the Road columns or to ask a question, go to bellinghamherald.com/traffic.