Why should you stop if you are familiar with the roadway and can see the coast is clear? One answer to that question is that drunks, speeders and inattentive drivers run stop signs. You may see another car but you can’t be in the driver’s head, know his intentions, or know his physical condition.
Many drivers don’t stop long enough to actually judge how fast an oncoming car is traveling. Is the coast really clear or do we clearly just assume? Can you handle the gamble if you ramble through the stop sign? You might not be able to live with the consequences … literally.
You will know if your car has come to a complete stop if you feel it slightly rock backward. How we stop (or not) at stop signs becomes a habit and all intersections with stop signs are not the same. One intersection might be easy to observe oncoming traffic but another might not.
What is a stop? Merriman-Webster defines it as a “brief stay in the course of a journey.” Can we honestly say that we have a brief stay at stop signs or do we briefly apply our brakes?
I recently read about a man who said most people do not stop at stop signs because it wears out cars faster. He also said that if you press the brakes and go very slowly when no one else is at the stop sign and speed back up like normal, that should be OK, and it should be legalized.
Let us for a moment adopt this man’s philosophy. If it will protect our cars by making it legal to run stop signs, why not just take the stop signs down? Next we can remove all the traffic lights and yield signs. Have we really increased the longevity of our cars, or have we reduced their life span due to probable crashes? If there is any credence to his theory, I believe the lifetime damage to a car caused by applying brakes is miniscule. It is real clear to me, however, that the resulting cost of increased insurance premiums, property damage, personal injury and loss of life would be staggering.
Traffic laws are created by the Legislature. Common law is developed through the decisions of courts. It may be a common habit to roll through a common stop sign, but using common sense just might save your life.
Charlie Sewell is the Powder Springs chief of police. His column runs monthly in the Marietta Daily Journal.