Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Yield Points and the Etiquette of Stop Signs

In theory, when vehicles come to a four-way stop, they are supposed to yield to all the vehicles that got there first. If there is a "tie," the person to the right is supposed to have the right of way. In practice, however, this is not how it works. Inevitably there's some guy in a sports car around whom the entire world revolves, and so he gets to go first. Or there's a truck that does a California Rolling Stop, and you don't want to argue with a vehicle that weighs several times more than you. Or maybe you do want to argue with it, but Sir Isaac Newton taps you on the shoulder and says, "Um, remember that little law I worked out a while back? Well, it works for cars too."

So I've invented a system to help everyone figure out exactly who has the right of way at a stop sign when there are simultaneous arrivals at the intersection. I call it "yield points". It is very simple. Every vehicle has a certain number of yield points, and the vehicle with the most yield points gets to go first. And as near as I can tell it's actually pretty accurate in predicting who will take the right of way.

Yield points are assigned for each of the following attributes:
  • Color. Red or trendy-colored cars +2 points; black cars +1 point; all other colors +0 points.
  • Vehicle Type And Size. Large trucks +3 points; sports cars +2 points; minivans and pickup trucks +1.
  • Vehicle Cost To Repair. Very expensive vehicles (including antique vehicles from the Cruise-In) +2 points; somewhat expensive vehicles +1, average vehicles +0, beater cars -2
  • Age Of Driver. Very young drivers +2, college-age drivers +3, old drivers -1.
Things get more complicated when you get to a two-way stop. Obviously, both parties stopped at a two-way stop must yield to the oncoming traffic. But which of them yields to the other? In theory, whoever got there first should go first. But that rarely happens. Yield points become even more useful in this scenario, with the following additions:
  • Any vehicle that is second in line behind the guy at the stop sign has the right of way over a vehicle that is already at the stop sign opposite, provided that the second-in-line has been waiting a long time and is really impatient. In this case the second-in-line is also entitled to do a California Rolling Stop if traffic permits.
  • Any vehicle that I'm not driving has the right of way over any vehicle that I'm driving.
  • Any vehicle that intends to turn left across the other vehicle's path without signaling, has the right of way. (If the vehicle signals the turn, this provision doesn't cover it.)
I hope we all can drive safely out there with our newfound understanding of the unwritten rules of the road!