Intersections & You: A Guide for New Drivers

Intersections can be tricky and scary, and many new and seasoned drivers have run afoul of traffic at intersections. Staying alert and observant, along with minimizing distractions, will help new drivers stay safe at intersections.

Washington State Patrol Trooper Rick Johnson tells his driving-age children to wait a few moments at a newly green light, as others may disobey the law.

“You’re sitting at a red light and it turns green, take a breath and look both ways as if its not green,” Johnson said. “Even in my police car, the light turns green and then someone comes through the intersection that would have hit you if you’d taken off right away.”

For Director of Government and Public Affairs for AAA Oregon Marie Dodds, her advice for new drivers at intersections is to minimize distractions. It can be easy to pick up a phone to post, but it isn’t safe and could be illegal.

“Be a safe driver,” Dodds said. “AAA’s advice is to ditch the distractions, be a safe driver, and let everyone get home from work or appointments or wherever they are driving.”

Other helpful tip and advice from our experts includes:

  1. Always be observant of other vehicles, and especially observant of pedestrians
    • They may not do what you expect them to do, whether legal or illegal
  2. Minimize distractions, don’t use cell phones or post to social media until you are no longer in the driver’s seat
    • Use hands-free connections for calls made during driving
  3. If an accident happens at an intersection pull off the road and onto the shoulder (if possible):
    • Contact the other driver, exchange insurance information
    • Pull off the road and onto the shoulder (if cars are able to move)
    • Call 911 and wait in your car until authorities arrive at the scene

Traffic Circles

At a traffic circle, also known as a roundabout, oncoming traffic will come from the left with drivers merging with traffic flowing counter-clockwise around the circle.

4-Way Intersections

At a 4-way intersection, can be an a-typical, equilateral cross or have odd-angle approaches. Be sure to look all directions and wait until its time to make a maneuver.


T-intersections may or may not have a stop for traffic crossing the top of the ‘T’. Be especially watchful and ensure there’s more than enough time to merge in the intended direction of travel.


These are usually minor roads connecting with more major routes and may or may not have three-way stopping, so proceed when safe.


At uncontrolled intersections, neither car has vehicle his right of way so it’s usually a ‘first-come, first-go’ basis.

Pedestrian Crosswalks

In many cities, pedestrians have the right of way when using a marked crosswalk. Whether the crosswalk has a stop-sign or not, drivers should stop to allow pedestrians safe passage across the street.

When you’re driving around town, using these tips and tricks to approaching an intersection can help you out in the long run.

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