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Monday, September 27, 2010

Try and stop me!

Today’s Libertarian Mind Wanderings of the Day is on stop signs.

First, why is my neighborhood filled with stop signs? I live in a typical low volume traffic neighborhood with a number of streets and intersections but many of them only adjoin each other or only touch a major thoroughfare at one end. The traffic is so low that the vast majority of my trips in and out of the neighborhood, I see no other cars until I get to the major streets. There is absolutely no reason to have stop signs impeding me all around. If you must, you can put up a yield sign in order to recognize the need for caution and reflect the actual behavior of everyone today. What I don’t need is to be looking over my shoulder just in case law enforcement happens to wander down my street and see me all by myself rolling through a stop sign.

In fact I’m beginning to wonder what the justification really is here because the statute regarding putting stop signs up is actually pretty limiting. It states


     (a)     The traffic engineer shall conduct studies and investigations of the public streets and highways within the city and shall determine those places on public streets and highways where a particular danger or hazard exists to motor vehicle traffic and pedestrian traffic and shall place and maintain traffic control signs, signals, and devices in accordance with these studies and determinations as required under this chapter and other traffic laws.

I’m curious if there was ever a study on my neighborhood that determined there was a particular danger or hazard that warranted me to stop at these internal intersections. No, have you ever seen a neighborhood get built? The first thing in is the roads and the signs. Before anyone even lives there (when you can actually see everything around you because its not built up yet) the flow of traffic is already constricted.

I can even be persuaded that where the residential streets hit the boulevard you might want a stop sign. Although its pretty obvious that the larger busier street has has the right of way and you don’t actually change any of the behavior by putting up a stop sign. The only thing you get is a mediocre increase in local ticket revenue and a small subsidy to the sign making business.

I’m thinking that if I stood up at the city council meeting and asked for their removal I’d get a stunned look of disbelief “But….um…. you have to have them. Why? Because!”

Second, I do not (necessarily) stop for private stop signs. They have no legal basis and I treat them as an appropriate warning that I need to be aware and yield in order to allow traffic to flow as necessary within the parking lot. Wal-Mart is an excellent example of this. So please don’t get all worked up if I blow through a stop sign at the back of the lot 100 yards from the nearest car or pedestrian.

Third, stopping behind the stop sign. The traditional lore is that when there is no marking or crosswalk, you must stop behind the stop sign. I don’t know about you but I haven’t seen a stop seen near enough to the actual corner to be useful. This requires all cars to make two full stops, one at the sign and another at the street when you can see. While looking up #1 above I came across this in the TX statutes regarding stop sign use. [my emphasis]


(c)  An operator required to stop by this section shall stop before entering the crosswalk on the near side of the intersection. In the absence of a crosswalk, the operator shall stop at a clearly marked stop line. In the absence of a stop line, the operator shall stop at the place nearest the intersecting roadway where the operator has a view of approaching traffic on the intersecting roadway.

IANAL but as far as I can find, the local city codes don’t adjust or override this, which means as long as you stop (which most people do at a busy street) you are good to go.

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