They just don’t work. Maybe you’ve heard of “Minnesota nice”, this strange passive-aggressive attitude around here that compels everyone to compete at being the most polite and deferential…and it completely defeats the function of the 4-way stop at an intersection. The rule is simple—whoever first comes to a complete stop gets to be the first to proceed through the intersection—but real Minnesotans can’t grasp it. It’s nice to let someone go through first, so you’ll sometimes run into these situations where two cars are parked at the crossroads, with each driver waving for the other to go ahead, and they just sit there. Then they’ll both edge forward, stop abruptly as they notice the other fellow trying to advance, and the gesticulating commences again.
I just made a trip to the grocery store when I came upon two cars stopped, one to the left and the other to the right, their drivers flapping their arms madly and not going anywhere. My arrival seems to have made the situation worse, because they added me to their pattern of waving. Come on, I’m last at the intersection, I’m supposed to be last to proceed! It’s easy!
Anyway, I’m from Washington. I gave them 15 or 20 seconds, then said screw it, and went ahead.