Essay

Carmel four-way stops

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!

Last updated on 24 December 2019 by Jim Grey

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10 thoughts on “Carmel four-way stops

  1. Aaron Moman says:

    I’ve not experienced your trouble with 4-way stops in Carmel. But it might explain something else I’ve noticed (mostly on the north-side of Indy, not in Carmel): Many drivers will wave me through to make the left turn in front of them. Even when they were clearly there before me.

    I’ve always thought it was a bit odd. I just assumed deference and “Hoosier hospitality”. But maybe it’s a carry-over effect from the reckless left-hand turning Carmel drivers? “You go ahead because you might just pull in front of me anyway (you b!@#%#d)”.

  2. Jenn Mikesell says:

    It’s always been my understanding that the driver to the right of you goes 1st (if you approaced the stop sign at around the same time) …. unless they wave you on of course. idk… thats how I remember it.

  3. Aaron, maybe you’re right, the Northside Indy drivers have to be on the defensive because anybody at a 4-way stop could be from Carmel, after all!

    Jenn, holy cow, if I’ve been doing it wrong for 20+ years, think of all the confused and irritated drivers I’ve left in my wake!

  4. The Ohio drivers manual said the person on the right goes first so that is what I’ve always done. I find it odd the Indiana manual doesn’t cover stop signs at all it seems. Must be because they’re optional.

  5. Chris Rowland says:

    The driver’s manual mentions that it is the car on the right that has the right-of-way. Look at page 41: “…yielding to any vehicle: … That is to the right of the driver and has arrived at the intersection at the same time as the driver.” That’s the way they taught us in Driver’s Education at Northwest High in Indianapolis.

    I don’t know where you got the “car on the left” logic… I have never heard that.

  6. Hmm, yes, Chris, I can see how that is inferred, even though it is in the section for a red flashing light. Sure wish that was made more clear.

  7. I only looked under the red flashing light because the first thing it said about Stop Signs on p. 42 was “The rules pertaining to stop signs are the same as those pertaining to red flashing
    light signals.”

    Seems like backwards logic to me. I think someone would have encountered 50 stop signs for every 1 red flashing light they meet.

    On another topic, the chart on p. 51 says that an “urban” non-divided state highway has a maximum speed limit of 65, which would seem to be a misprint since an urban interstate has a maximum of 55, and even a “rural” divided highway has a maximum of 60. Urban and non-divided seems much more dangerous than either of those but yet has a higher speed limit?

    I have never seen a non-divided highway in Indiana with a speed limit over 55.

  8. Dani says:

    I thought it was a given that the car to the right goes first at a 4-way stop.

    Growing up in rural Indiana, I recall more Yield signs than 4-way stops.

  9. When one person calls you a horse you can laugh him off. When another person calls you a horse, you can just ignore him. But when a third person calls you a horse, why, you’d better start looking for your tail!

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