As I travelled a 30 mph arterial last week, I was reminded that there’s no shortage of driving peeves. And, as with many aggravations occurring on the roadways, the upsetter may not even realize he or she is affecting the upsettee.
In this case, a driver approached from a right-hand side street perpendicular to my lane at a higher-than-adequate speed, and made a hard stop past the stop line placing vehicle nose near cross-traffic — all with his head turned away from me to the right.
My immediate thought was that the driver was going to hurry past the stop sign without stopping — a notion enhanced by the driver’s unwillingness to look my way.
Just as I applied a cautionary brake to accommodate this potential hazard, the driver made an “emergency” stop. I passed by while his car leveled from its nose-down attitude acquired during the sudden stop.
He was likely unaware that his hurriedness and/or lack of finesse was causing me consternation. But for starters, if his head needed to be turned, turning it left rather than right would make him aware of his most prominent pending danger: vehicles approaching from the left. It also would have allowed eye contact with coming drivers.
Besides that, why race to the stop? If you intend to stop anyway, why create panic for the drivers of advancing vehicles? Also, going past the stop line is a sure way to create uncertainty for drivers trying to confirm whether you are going to stop or not. In the absence of a stop line, the stop sign itself serves as the stop “barrier.”
A legal stop is made when a car, truck, motorcycle or bicycle comes to a complete stop at the sign or line. If your vehicle needs to be advanced further to check for traffic, it should be done after first stopping at the legally designated position (line or sign).
Certain driving peeves cannot be alleviated. Take, for example, the dilemma that arises from inconsistent signal use. Reader D.O. wrote, “Being more of a defensive driver than a ‘precision’ one, I tend to assume that all drivers (self included, despite best of intents & efforts) are not ‘all there, all the time.’ That said, whenever I am at a stop sign waiting for the opportunity to execute a right turn and a driver is approaching the intersect on the arterial with his right turn indicator engaged (signaling his intent to turn right onto ‘my’ street), I simply don’t believe him and wait until he either: 1. Executes the indicated turn or: 2. Breezes straight through and the lane I wish to enter becomes clear. Is this ‘right’ or ‘wrong?’ Not that the answer will change my behavior, but, were I a more trusting soul and pulled out in front of the approaching car (because the driver was signaling) and a collision resulted would I be at fault for failure to yield?”
So, even though the driver approaching from his left may be properly signaling, previously-seen unpredictable driver behavior causes D.O. not to heed it. The decision to wait for the “turning” car is a judgment call that should be based on vehicle speed and distance. If I can’t confirm the intent of the vehicle with its signal lit, I, like D.O., wait for the outcome before proceeding.
There is no right or wrong here — only a duty to determine if the vehicle is turning or not. If it can be confirmed that the vehicle is turning before it gets to you, then departing from the stop is correct to aid traffic flow. If the vehicle’s turn is uncertain, though, waiting is the safe thing to do rather than gamble on the signal being “legit.” In the event of a collision, the driver of the departing vehicle would likely be cited for failure to yield right of way, since that vehicle was at a stop sign. The fact that the approaching vehicle had a turn signal activated would be hard to prove post-accident without an impartial witness.
It helps when you make your driving actions as predicable as possible — please try!
Readers may contact Bill Love via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.