Stop signs and red lights are all part of driving and an area that will get you a ticket in a heartbeat if you run them or an accident if you are not careful. How about that for opening up an article and getting your attention!

Stop Signs

stop signLet’s begin with the good old stop sign that might be the most popular sign found out there. When you are approaching a stop sign you must remember there is often times an area that we all (police included) would prefer you to stop at and that is most often the painted white line at where the sign is posted.

Be advised here dummies that it is not designed to be stopped on or after but for your car come to a rest, right behind it. This is the same for when you come to a stop sign that has a crosswalk painted in front of it as this is for pedestrians to cross on and is not for you to park on top of so they have to walk in front or behind you. OK so far pretty easy you say well do know danger lurks from here on so start paying more attention please.

Now you need to learn the definition of a proper or legal way to have your car come to a complete stop at a stop sign so here goes.

Complete Stop or Rolling Stop?

There are three main things that happen at stop signs the first is a true/complete stop, then there is the rolling stop and lastly there is running a stop. Two of the three will get you a ticket and or possibly cause you to have a wreck and I will explain as we move forward from here.

Complete Stop

The true/complete stop is when you feel yourself and your car stop and rock slightly forward and back as the car stops completely and you will know this feeling when you first start learning how to drive with your parents.

This is the type stop that all of us including the police love to see you do so make it happen like this and all will be good. However the next two types of stopping are the ones that will get you in trouble so let’s explain the rolling stop which by its very nature is not a stop at all.

Rolling Stop

A rolling stop is when you approach a stop sign and you have a good sight distance and not seeing anyone coming well you decide to just kind of slide through the stop sign without really stopping.

Well boys and girls this will get you a quick ticket should the police be watching you and something you should not get used to doing as a ticket goes on your record and then there’s a fine to pay.

Running the Stop Sign

Lastly there is running the stop sign and under no conditions should this ever be attempted as all it will lead to is even a larger fine and in many cases a potential wreck for us good guys/girls that are following the law and make the stop and proceed thinking all is good. We hate people like you by the way so avoid ever doing this and stay on our and the police and your insurance company’s good side!

There are also other things to consider or at least be aware of when you come to stop signs and that is after you have made the true/complete stop well what if there are other cars around you at this stop sign as well.

Many times it comes down to who arrived at the stop sign first and if it is a “tie” then the rule of thumb is the car to your right goes first. Also when it’s a “tie” situation normally the turning car should yield to the other one. Many times it comes down to just common sense and watching each other as to who will proceed first and default to them.

Most times it just involves eye to eye contact to decide who will do what but regardless always pull out with caution.

Four Way Stop Signs

4 way stop signLastly when coming to a four way stop sign it goes without saying that the first car to reach the intersection is the one who goes first. If however you reach the stop sign just as everyone else is coming to a stop then common courtesy says you should yield to the person to you right.

But one rule you must never forget and that is never/ever assume that people are stopping when approaching or going through stop signs so always watch with caution what the other drivers are doing or not.

Traffic Lights

So that’s about it for how to deal with stop signs so let’s move on to the great and mighty traffic light which is always fun to deal with.

Traffic lights are very similar to stop signs but the difference is they have complete control of when you stop or go so follow their directions. When approaching traffic lights there are three things that they will be telling you with the first being red which of course means stop and then there is green which says it’s perfectly ok to proceed thru the light however they add a wrinkle by having a yellow light in between.

Amber or Yellow?

The yellow light really only comes into play as you are approaching the light as it comes on to give you an advance warning that you need to be ready to stop as the light is changing from green to red.

traffic light amber

The tricky part is understanding when you can go thru a yellow light and when not to and this is a judgment call that you will need to make based upon how far you are away from the light and how fast you are going. If you are going the normal posted speed limit and are watching for the light to change well unless you are directly in front of the light when it changes to yellow you should be able to safely stop in time.

A good thing to practice is when you are approaching a light from good distance away you should be able to judge or at least anticipate when the light will be changing based upon how long it has been green but this is something that you will learn over time. Anyhow when approaching the light and it does turn to yellow my mind goes through a quick check list of things that include:

  • If there is a car in front of me what are they going to do? If they are hitting the brakes well I have no option other than to stop.
  • If there is not a car in front of me and I am close enough to the intersection to be able to proceed through the yellow safely then I stay the course and the speed and go thru the light but am cautious and do look in all directions as I do it.
  • If it is a touch and go situation I first look in my rear view mirror to see just how far back the cars are behind me and if they are able to stop as well and if so then I stop. However if I see they are right on my tail well logic says not to slam on the brakes to make the stop with the chance of them rear ending me.

OK now we have made it through the tricky/hard parts so let’s run through several other things you will encounter mainly around traffic lights/signals:

  • traffic lightWhen approaching a blinking “red” light just treat it as a four way stop sign.
  • When approaching a blinking “yellow’ light no need to stop but it’s a good idea to pay attention when going through it, watch traffic on the left and right sides.
  • When approaching a stop sign or traffic light I always make note of the traffic behind me and where possible I leave a little buffer room between me and the car in front. I do this in bumper to bumper traffic also in that if the car behind me is not paying attention I have some room to move up to avoid a possible rear end collision.
  • Note that in most states it is perfectly legal to make a right turn on red if the traffic allows so after making a true/complete stop well check traffic to your left and if it is clear or you have plenty of time to pull out then go for it! The only time you can’t do this is when you see a sign near the light or posted at the corner that says “No Right Turn on Red” — pretty easy to see and to know when not to do this.
  • Also note that many cities have gotten real sneaky and have installed red light camera’s at problem intersections and if you run one then don’t be surprised to see a ticket arrive shortly in your mailbox, FYI they store and keep the pictures on file.

There are many fights in the court system over this use so stand by for their future. Now it’s almost time to end this long and important blog but I have one more subject that like a couple other tough areas in this blog I find it hard to explain so well here goes!

Left Turn at Red Light

This next scenario you will find yourself in from time to time so here be prepared for it in advance. When you find yourself coming up to a intersection (busy or not) where you have to stop as the light has turned red and if your next move is to make a left turn across traffic well here comes the situation you need to be ready for.

Let’s assume here that you are the first one at the light which is red or first one in the turn lane (if there is one) wanting to make a left turn across traffic when the light turns green well there are two things that might happen.

First maybe you are lucky and when the light turns to green you are given a green arrow that allows you to cross first before oncoming traffic receives their green light, yeah that’s easy! But what to do if you do not have an early green arrow well you have to be very careful and pay attention when the opportunity presents itself for you to pass through/across traffic to make your left turn.

If traffic is light when the signal turns to green and you find an open gap to turn well go for it and again that was easy. But let’s assume that you do not have a early green arrow and there is heavy oncoming traffic that does not offer a gap to turn through and then you see that the light is turning yellow, what now? Well while you were waiting through this green light you should have moved up a little, not out into the middle of the intersection, but just enough to be starting out into this area ready to make a turn.

Now comes the moment of truth as when the light turns yellow you, being the first car at the intersection, have the right to wait for oncoming traffic to slow and then shoot the gap and make your left turn. Keep in mind this is happening while the yellow light is starting to move to red and technically you are not running a red light being the first car in this scenario.

However for all other cars behind you that decide they want to follow you through the late yellow/early red light well the police do not like this and you can be subject to a ticket as well as putting yourself in jeopardy of a possible wreck.

I bring all this up as I have sat through many many of the same lights where other drivers in front of me refuse to do this and will only go through this light/intersection when the light is green and there is no oncoming traffic. So remember this when you find yourself in this pickle/situation!