skip to main content
four way stop sign

Managing Four-way Stop Intersections for Autistic Drivers

  • August 11, 2022
  • Andrew Arboe

One of the ways that we avoid putting a traffic light on a lightly traveled road is by using a four-way stop intersection. The main idea is simple, a car arrives at an interaction where stop signs are posted on all four ends. Once stopped, each driver goes in a turn, depending on the order the car arrives at the same intersection. It seems simple, but it can be easily misunderstood if one does not pay attention. In a way, it resembles socialization where there are both expected and unwritten rules to be aware of which can make it a possible barrier to some autistic drivers. It is due to these complexities that I want to go over 3 tips on managing four-stop intersections for autistic drivers.

Always use turn signals: Effective driving is achieved by knowing the ways to communicate on the road. One of the best ways to let people know your intentions is using your turn signals. Talking and using hand motions will likely not help since you want to try to keep your hands on the steering wheel. Using turn signals is one of those ways that tells drivers around you about your actions. The first is telling them that you are about to make a lane change soon. The second is that you are telling other drivers that you are about to make a left or right turn. This is important because drivers can be ready and not be close to you when you make a turn. It is cooperation that allows for drivers to be safe on the road.

Order of the lines: Four-stop interactions have an order that all drivers must follow always. The main rule is that the first car that arrives at the intersection is also the first to complete its maneuver. After the first car, the next car that stopped at the sign will go. It is based on who shows up first. It is still important to follow “right of way” rules in these intersections. In a what-if situation, when all four cars arrive at the same time, it is important to wait for the first car to make a move. That way, an order can be established, and you can complete your maneuver for the intersection.

Being Aware of Communication Issues: Despite the structure of the intersection and following the “rules”, communication issues can still appear. The main reason why it occurs is some drivers do not pay attention prior to approaching the four-stop intersection. The moment that one driver does not know the order; all the other drivers will be confused. If two drives attempt to proceed at the same time, it might cause other conflicts. Therefore, looking at the intersection several seconds ahead of time will ensure that you know who is arriving first and figuring out the order. Another communication issue is a driver breaking the road rules. One example could be ignoring the order and going through the intersection regardless. This was an experience I had when I was driving my father’s car a few times. I drove a mid-rise car for some days, and I had one or two cars almost ram into me on my sides because they were not paying attention to when it was their turn to proceed through the intersection. Another time, I had my turn in a four-stop intersection and a car on the left side looked like they were ignoring my left turn. I had to honk my steering wheel to stop the car from hitting me and I had it in my mind for a while. So, it is important to know the possibility of drivers breaking rules while at an intersection to be fully ready.

Overall, four stop intersection has its own set of challenges, especially for those with autism, but they can be overcome. It is important to know not just the order of the intersection but to see who appears first as you approach the intersection. It is knowing the rules and what to do that will make you a safe driver. It is one of our main missions for Driving with Autism to empower autistic drivers to make those choices. We go over various driving situations like this in our course Managing Changes and Anxiety As An Autistic Driver in our webinar series.

Contact us for autism-centered virtual education driving school training.


Contact Driving With Autism