What is in the mind of the other driver approaching the 4-way stop? Is the driver fiddling with the radio, texting or possibly intoxicated? At stop signs do we stop long enough to accurately judge how fast an approaching car is traveling? If we have an accident at a stop sign, we don‘t get do-overs.
If you are leaving a 4-way stop sign, would you want an approaching driver to take his foot off the accelerator, or put it on the brakes? If another driver runs a stop sign and hits your car, that driver would be wrong, and you would be right. You just might be dead right.
Webster defines a stop as a “brief stay in the course of a journey.” Can we say that we have a brief stay at stop signs, or do we briefly apply our brakes? Some drivers see regulatory stop signs as simple guidelines. Rolling stops can become an unconscious habit, and some people truly believe it when they tell the traffic cop, “I thought I did stop.” Most people roll past stop signs at 1 to 2 miles per hour or faster, but a car will indicate to the driver that it has come to a complete stop when it slightly rocks backwards.
I recently read about a man who apparently has contempt for stop signs. He said most people do not stop at stop signs because it wears out their cars faster. He also said 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. I don’t think there is a universal definition of “go very slowly,” and I certainly don’t think “go very slowly” is measurable.
Let us for a moment stoop to the bottom of the intelligence quotient and use 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. In reality, have we really increased the longevity of our cars, or are we reducing their life span due to probable collisions? If there is any fact to his theory, I believe the lifetime damage to a car caused by applying brakes is minuscule. 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 engineers commonly install stop signs where traffic crashes commonly occur. Notwithstanding the law, common sense means coming to a complete stop at a stop sign. Stop signs may be an inconvenience to you, but how many more people are inconvenienced if you die? Tomorrow is “pending,” depending on what we do today, tourist or not.
Charlie Sewell is the Powder Springs chief of police. His column runs monthly in the Marietta Daily Journal.