I state the obvious — it’s what I do. For example, stop means STOP. At least it used to. In most studies about whether or not motorists come to a complete stop (i.e. behind the crosswalk line and completely stopped) the percentage of motorists who do this is lower than the percentage of those who do not.
Another way of putting that is stopping at stop signs is for many “stoptional.” In fact, it feels weird to do it for more than one-half of the motoring population. Close to 70 percent of motorists fail to stop at stop signs in the absence of competing traffic. Even when there is cross-traffic, many motorists almost stop, but seem compelled to creep through the intersection while they wait for their turn.
Conversely, it does not feel weird or strange to come to a complete stop at a red light. I have paid very deliberate attention to both types of stops. I have observed many motorists at signalized intersections as well as stop sign intersections. I began with a study of myself.
I made a conscious decision to come to a full and complete stop at each and every stop sign I encountered. I stopped behind the crosswalk line, even if I did not see any pedestrians. At first, it felt very strange — the sensation of my tires coming to a complete stop, my body coming to rest in the seat — there was also the anxious concern that the motorist behind me would rear-end me because he or she would not be expecting me to stop.
I paid attention to my inertia responses at red lights as well and found that those stops felt more normal. My week-long experiment turned into 10 days, and my new stopping habits began to feel more natural. In fact, after 10 days of stopping at each and every stop sign I encountered, every slip into a creeping roll started to feel unnatural — wrong even.
One interesting side effect of my new stopping habit was discovered in my rear-view mirror. Often, the car behind me would also come to a complete stop. I’m not sure if they were already inclined to stop, if they thought I had seen a cop nearby, or if my choice had just naturally affected their subsequent choice. What I am sure of is I am singlehandedly challenging the “stoptional” culture to rethink the stop sign.
It always seems too obvious to me that observing the rules of the road that are designed to safeguard motorists and other road users is just a no-brainer, which scares me.
Safeguard motorists and other road users, self-preservation and a little bit of looking out for the other guy — the need for these obvious no-brainers to be spelled out for two-thirds of the population is frightening and disheartening, to say the least.
I hate reading these articles and feeling like I’m coming off as some kind of lecturing shrew or screaming banshee. I also hate that road fatality and injury statistics haven’t changed substantially in the last decade. I also hate the fact that before you can finish reading this article another road user will be killed or maimed. And I hope you are not reading this article on your Kindle while driving through a school zone at a high rate of speed, I hate that that is a legitimate thought of the kind of thing that can happen in our current driving culture.
I want anyone who is reading this, who may be a part of the 70 percent of “stoptional” drivers out there to commit to 10 days of coming to a complete and legal stop at each and every stop sign they encounter. Pay attention to how it feels. Talk to your friends and family about it. Share with your social media contacts and your neighbors and co-workers — but not while driving.
Drive safe and be well.