Thursday, May 27, 2010

Stop! Please!?

Apparently, I am not alone in my occasional disrespect for Stop signs.  Tom Vanderbilt (who wrote a book on Traffic and is a regular columnist at Slate) has a new post, starting with the internet parody of a stop sign designed by a corporate committee.  Tom's point is that the parody is half-right--that stop deisns need to be re-designed since they fail a great deal of the time to control traffic even if the point of the parody is wrong--this is really hard stuff.

But what about in cases where no cross-traffic was visible? Would people still stop? A 1968 study in Berkeley, Calif., published in Law & Society Review, found that just 14 percent of drivers brought their cars to a full stop "without being forced to do so by cross traffic" (the so-called "California roll" was the norm).
No one has more doggedly pursued the question of stop-sign compliance than John Trinkaus, who conducted an annual stopping survey at the same intersection for nine straight years in the 1970s and '80s, finding a creeping decline. In his culminating 1997 masterwork, "Stop Sign Compliance: A Final Look," Trinkaus revisits his old intersection and finds that the percentage of people making a full stop had dropped from 37 percent in 1979 to a mere 3 percent
So, I am not the only @#$# who does this.  I think I have gotten worse since Montreal seems to spread around stop signs like they are putting Parmesan cheese on pasta.  The more signs there are at intersections where they are not really needed, the less respect I think they get.  And my intuition, like my bad driving habits, is widely shared: "traffic engineers have long known that excessive signage declines in effectiveness.... the more signs installed, the lower the compliance. "

1 comment:

Chris C. said...

It's even worse for bicyclists; we can see most intersections perfectly well up ahead and when we stop we don't have an internal-combustion engine to get us going again. Plus, if you stop as a bicyclist, you're more likely to confuse the drivers who are used to bikers blowing through the intersection. And you might get knocked down by some spandex-clad superbiker who doesn't take kindly to people obeying traffic laws and zips right by you. Easy solution: eliminate most all-way stops and replace them with ones that let the busier road flow freely.