Amid the storms and power outages across the state this week, the Indiana Department of Transportation sends this reminder: Intersections with nonfunctioning traffic signals become four-way stops.
Indiana law says that after stopping, motorists may proceed with caution through those intersections. They also should yield the right of way to traffic within the intersection or so near that it presents an immediate hazard.
In other words, when in doubt, yield the right of way. It's much better to be alive than right and dead.
I've always considered the four-way stop the perfect example of the law at its civilization-enabling best. It doesn't force us to do anything, doesn't try to direct where we drive or how we get there. It just uses the minimum intervention necessary to help us get to where we're going safely. And everybody knows how to do it -- nobody freaks out when two cars get to the intersection more or less at the same time.
Except for those forced reversions to the four-way stop when the traffic signals go out -- I'm not sure the word has gotten out on that yet. I've seen those situations more than once, and sometimes the drivers all just sit there with "OK, what do we do now?" expressions on their faces.