WHAT IS AN INTERSECTION?

An intersection is wherever two or more roadways come together. The most common intersections are where roads cross (like a +) or meet (like a T). But there are also circular intersections (traffic circles and roundabouts).

Intersections are high-risk locations, because drivers, pedestrians, and other road users need to safely cross each others' paths. This requires everyone to understand who has the right of way.

WHAT IS RIGHT OF WAY?

Having the right of way means you are allowed to proceed before others at the intersection. If you do not have the right of way, you must allow others to go first - you yield the right of way.

Signs, signals, crosswalks, road user types, and the position of vehicles work together to determine the rules. See the sections below for right of way rules in different kinds of intersections.

CONTROLLED INTERSECTIONS

A controlled intersection has traffic signs or traffic lights to tell road users what to do when they arrive at the intersection.

Stop Signs

  • Drivers must come to a complete stop when they come to a stop sign. Failure to do so will result in a $388 fine and 3 demerit points.
  • While stopped at the stop sign, drivers must yield the right of way to pedestrians and to vehicles who do not have a stop sign.
  • Drivers must not proceed until it is safe to do so.

2-Way Stops

  • At a 2-way stop, only traffic travelling in one direction (for example, traffic going north-south) has a stop sign at the intersection.
  • While stopped at the stop sign, drivers must yield the right of way to pedestrians and vehicles who do not have a stop sign.
  • Drivers must not proceed until it is safe to do so.
  • Drivers also must not turn left unless it is safe. So, if two vehicles arrive at opposite stop signs and one is turning left, the driver going straight has the right of way. The driver turning left yields the right of way.

3- and 4-Way Stops

  • Intersections with a stop sign on every corner are sometimes called "courtesy corners" because all drivers must use courtesy and caution in these intersections.
  • Every driver is required to stop, since every driver is coming to a stop sign.
  • Courtesy is to allow the driver who arrived first to proceed first.
  • If two vehicles arrive at about the same time, the vehicle on the right has the right of way. The vehicle on the left yields the right of way.

Yield Signs

  • A yield sign means you must allow other vehicles without a yield sign to go first - you must yield the right of way.
  • As you approach a yield sign, you should slow down and be prepared to stop.
  • If vehicles or pedestrians are present, come to a stop and yield the right of way until it is safe to proceed.
  • If no vehicles or pedestrians are present, you may proceed without stopping.

Traffic Lights

  • Drivers and pedestrians must proceed according to the light they are facing.
  • A solid red light means drivers must come to a complete stop and pedestrians may not enter the crosswalk. Unless a sign states otherwise, drivers can turn right after stopping - but they must yield the right of way to any vehicles and pedestrians who are facing the green light.
  • A solid green light means drivers and pedestrians can enter the intersection. Drivers turning left on the green light must yield the right of way to vehicles going straight through the intersection and to pedestrians crossing in the crosswalk.
  • A green arrow means drivers have the right of way to turn. Vehicles going straight in the opposite direction and pedestrians must yield the right of way.
  • A yellow light is a warning that the light will be changing to red. Drivers and pedestrians must not enter the intersection when the light is yellow. If already in the intersection, they should clear the intersection.
  • A flashing red light should be treated like a stop sign.
  • A flashing yellow light should be treated like a yield sign.

EXITING ALLEYS, DRIVEWAYS, & PARKING LOTS

When you are entering a street from an alley, driveway, parking lot, or service road, you must stop - as if there is an invisible stop sign there. Just like at a stop sign, you must yield the right of way and not proceed until it is safe.

And did you know that a sidewalk acts like a stop sign? When you're emerging from an alley or driveway, you must stop and yield the right of way before driving across the sidewalk.

UNCONTROLLED INTERSECTIONS

An uncontrolled intersection has no traffic signs and and no traffic lights. In an uncontrolled intersection, the vehicle on the right has the right of way.

When you approach an uncontrolled intersection, slow down enough so you can stop if you need to. Always use caution and be sure the other vehicle is going to yield the right of way before proceeding.

And remember, pedestrians have the right of way in all crosswalks (marked and unmarked). So if a pedestrian is crossing a crosswalk at an uncontrolled intersection, the driver must stop and yield the right of way. Failure to do so will result in a $776 fine and 4 demerit points.



LEARN MORE

Find out more about Crosswalks.

Learn specific rules for Roundabouts & Traffic Circles.

Learn more about navigating intersections in Alberta's Driver's guide to operation, safety and licensing: cars and light trucks.