I’d been driving for 20 years when I started my current job, which is in Carmel, Indiana. Within days, I was almost involved in three accidents at four-way stop signs.
The Indiana driver’s manual doesn’t tell the rules for four-way stops, but when Dad taught me to drive, here’s how he told me to handle them.
- If you reach the intersection first, you go first.
- If you reach the intersection at the about the same time as a car on the cross street, the driver on the left goes first. (Conventional wisdom, and the law in many states, is to yield to the driver on the right, but I haven’t seen it work that way in Indiana.)
- If you reach the intersection at about the same time as an oncoming car, and that car is turning left, you go first.
I successfully negotiated thousands of four-way stops using Dad’s rules until I started driving in Carmel. After a week or so, I finally figured it out. In Carmel, the car turning left apparently goes first at four-way stops. Once I got the picture, I stopped having close calls. But can somebody explain this to me? Is it a local rule? Are the drivers in Carmel just impatient? Selfish? Too distracted talking on their cell phones?
I’ve noticed that Carmel drivers in Indianapolis wait properly to make their left turns – except within the first mile or so of the city, between 96th and 86th Streets. It’s as if that mile is a demilitarized zone, a no-man’s land, in which you must have your wits fully about you at every four-way stop. Just this morning I had to brake hard at the four-way stop on Spring Mill Rd. at 91st St. as a Carmel driver turned left in front of me.
As Carmel replaces its four-way stops with roundabouts, I hope that its drivers get with the rest of the state on how to navigate four-way stops – and I hope I don’t get clobbered on Spring Mill Rd. in the meantime!