We Teach Driving Like Your Life Depends On It

Why do we treat stop signs so casually?

By Steve Wallace
Times Colonist, September 7th 2018

At stop signs, it’s the law to stop behind the white line. Another stop might be required to look for oncoming traffic, Steve Wallace writes.



A stop sign is not an invitation to squeal tires on pavement.
Nor is it a place to just slow down while looking around to see if the police are watching.

One would think not only the placement of an ordinary stop sign, but also the observance of it, would be a very easy concept to understand.
Sadly, compliance with the most numerous of all traffic signs is often slack at best and ignored at worst.
Where no other vehicular or pedestrian traffic is present, the act of coming to a complete stop is foreign to many drivers.
Fewer than five per cent of all drivers come to a complete stop at an intersection governed by a stop sign, when unobstructed by vehicular or pedestrian traffic.

A complete stop is defined by the slight sit-back feeling caused by the brakes.
One of the most common failures on a practical driving test is the lack of a complete stop when required.
Drivers are obligated to come to a complete stop at an intersection governed by a simple stop sign.
Where they must stop has a lot to do with their legal responsibility.

The stop sign tells us what to do, not necessarily where to do it.
Sewer and water lines, along with tree roots and myriad other obstacles, makes placing stop signs in consistent locations almost impossible.
The natural path of a pedestrian is the most important lateral guideline for stopping in the proper position.
Drivers must stop before a marked or unmarked crosswalk.

The solid while parallel crosswalk lines at an intersection or in mid-block are easy to see.
An unmarked sidewalk extension has the same legal standing as a marked crosswalk.
Where there is no sidewalk or extension, the point at which one road meets another becomes a legal crosswalk.
The natural path of a pedestrian across traffic is an accepted unmarked crosswalk.

Many drivers do not stop at the assigned spot because they are moving forward to get a better view of cross traffic.
Once they see there is no such traffic, it is all too common for them to simply keep on going.
The penalty for not coming to a complete stop is greater than that of going through a red traffic light.
The former is two penalty points, while the latter is three points.

Go figure.

Stopping properly before turning is far more important.
The act of turning requires a shoulder check before proceeding.
When drivers do not stop completely before a right turn, they often do not have time to do a proper right shoulder check, let alone do a check for pedestrian traffic as well.

They are so fixated on vehicular traffic coming from the left, they seldom do a well-timed check to the right side.
Stopping completely will give ample time for such necessary safety checks.
Sometimes a driver will have to stop twice, once to satisfy the legal responsibility and another to see clearly both left, right and the appropriate blind spot.

Many cities have done away with stop signs in recently developed residential areas.
They prefer to use uncontrolled intersections as opposed to a constant vehicle traffic interruption grid.
It is more environmentally friendly to have fewer stops and does help provide a smoother flow of traffic.

There are many places where a simple traffic diverter or small circle would suffice rather than an unnecessary intermittent stop-sign system.
Maybe it is time, given that the new school year is upon us, for all of us to go back to basics and “stop, look and listen” before we proceed at any intersection.

Sticking to obvious protocol is good advice.






© 2023 Joan Wallace Driving School. All Rights Reserved.