Several people have lost their lives in Madera and Fresno counties over the past week due to one of the most common — and dangerous — traffic violations: Running stop signs.
Because stop sign violations can be so deadly, it makes one wonder why people risk them. Yet, if you watch people in their cars, the majority may only slow at a stop sign, and some people will ignore them entirely if they think there is no cross traffic coming.
On Thursday, I read that many cities are removing their red-light cameras, although the cameras generally reduce accidents at the intersections where they are used. Also, they raise nice money for the municipalities that use them.
What’s the down side? The people who get caught running red lights hate the cameras. The violations cost money in fines and they go on one’s traffic record, raising insurance rates and even lowering credit ratings.
The question, then, becomes, why not just obey the law?
I decided to see one recent afternoon how prevalent stop-sign running is in Madera. I drove to a four-way intersection near our house and kept track of the number of cars that went through the intersection, and the number that actually came to a complete stop, as the law requires. I was surprised.
Between 1:35 and 1:55 p.m., 77 vehicles used the intersection. Of those 77, only 23 stopped fully before proceeding into the intersection. The others executed various forms of the California Stop, which ranged from slowing to about the speed of a walk before entering the intersection to coasting through at about 5 mph if there was no cross traffic.
I have blown stop signs myself, most recently on 4th Street where temporary signs had been put out while work was under way to widen and repair the street. I didn’t see the sign, but I also probably was thinking about something else. I knew I had made the mistake right when I blew the sign, and even though mine was the only car in the intersection, I felt guilty about it.
We probably all should be more careful about observing stop signs. We may prevent accidents, or even deaths, and besides, it’s the law.