Thursday, October 15, 2009

Driver Education: Stop signs should be obeyed

For years, debate has raged as to whether to stop or slow down at the big red octagon posted at an intersection.

Is there a difference and does it really matter?

The short answer is, yes, there is a difference, and, yes, it does matter. Let me explain what happens when you approach a stop sign and what you can do to ensure your driving is as safe as possible.

I recently spoke to a licensed driver who had a few driving problems. I had taken him out for an evaluation and noticed immediately that he rolled his stops. He wasn’t aware of it until I told him.

He argued with me and was pretty certain he had stopped. To illustrate the point, I asked him to verbalize his actions at the next stop sign.

His explanation basically went as follows: “Coming to my stopping position, slowing down, checking the intersection, it’s clear, so I can go.”

And then he proceeded through the intersection without stopping.

Nowhere in his dialogue did he say that he felt the vehicle come to a stop. After he said he was slowing down, he immediately went into scanning the intersection. That’s the part that confuses many people. We are so concerned about continuing along to our destination that we forget about stopping. Not only can this lead to a traffic violation, but also to a collision.

Our brain plays tricks on us when we’re stopping. Once you notice a stop sign you need to begin to slow down. After feeling the vehicle stop, you should then scan the intersection to see if it’s clear to enter. Once seeing that it’s clear, you should proceed through the intersection.

Drivers who roll stops often fool themselves into thinking they have stopped. For example, if you scan the intersection as you slow down and notice that it’s clear, your brain tells you to go. Your brain tells you it’s clear, so you end up bypassing the actual stopping process without realizing it.

The problem is that you actually think you’ve stopped.

People have argued with me about this from time to time, and I also know they have argued with the police officer who pulled them over for a rolling stop. The driver actually believes they fully stopped. And why wouldn’t they? They were originally thinking about stopping, but then changed their thought process.

Have you ever argued with someone, including your passenger, who said you rolled a stop?
The driver I was out with recently said afterwards that it feels like he’s taking so much longer to get to his destinations because he has to come to a full stop.

I worked it out for him like this: If you roll through 10 stops, at an average savings of two seconds per stop, you’ve saved a total of 20 seconds. Yes, 20 seconds. What activity could you possibly do that’s so worthwhile that you can do it in those 20 seconds?

While the law says you must make a full stop, it also allows you to properly scan the intersection. If you’re thinking about stopping first, then you’ll be looking for other road users who may be entering the intersection, including pedestrians, other drivers and cyclists.

I have a 10-minute walk from the parking lot to my office and many times I’ve had to stop walking through a crosswalk or had to cross quickly because a driver rolled through a stop. They only slowed down enough to make it look like they’ve stopped so they wouldn’t get a ticket.

That’s not good enough for the safety of others.

I’ve witnessed many drivers also doing the dreaded rolling stop while turning right on a red light. Recently, I watched a driver roll through the red light so abruptly that another driver who had a green light was cut off.

Remember, you may turn right on a red light if it’s clear of all other road users, but you must stop first.

That stop sign at an intersection doesn’t mean ‘slow and go’. It means what it says.

Reposted from The DRIVER Magazine.
Written by, Scott Marshall


  1. Thanks for reposting my article. Safe driving is my passion; let it be yours.

  2. Great post about driver education course.i think every driver should go for PA driver education course for aware of driving rules to aware of safety rules to overcome accidents and to follow traffic rules.

  3. Nice Post !

    Thanks for sharing this nice article.


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