Stop signs. If you live in the USA, these are a very common sight. You can find them pretty much anywhere two roads cross paths. In the rest of the world, this isn’t quite the case.
They do the job, supposedly. They create a set of rules where there is no question who has the right of way at a junction. When you arrive at a stop sign, you must bring your vehicle to a complete stop and only proceed when it is safe to do so.
The trouble is that they are extremely burdensome and inefficient. They have become the default method of controlling traffic at intersections, but they’re overbearing.
Most Americans have either been ticketed, or know someone who has, for not coming to a complete stop at a stop sign. This is because we all know that you really needn’t stop at every single stop sign.
There are some instances where stop signs are suitable to the conditions. However, I’d guess that in at least 95% of cases, stop signs could be replaced with the more appropriate “Yield” or “Give way” sign.
In the UK (and most other countries), “give way” is the default command at junctions. This means that it is your responsibility to ensure that the road is clear before entering it, but that you need not come to a complete stop. Where sight is limited, this may require you to come down to a few miles an hour, but there’s rarely a need to actually stop. Where sight lines are much better (as is more common in the States where everything is spread out), you can take corners at 15-20mph with perfect ease and safety.
This has been a bone of contention for me and my wife. I don’t stop at most stop signs because they’re completely pointless, they cause great inefficiency in your car and I know that it is safe to proceed, but in her eyes, whether I agree or not, it’s the law and needs to be respected. She has a point and as we are now raising children, she brings up an even better point: I’m showing our children that it’s OK to disobey the law when I see decide it’s OK to do so.
So, I’ve now resorted to obeying stop signs, though I have to force myself to do so. Since flaunting the law is no longer an option for me, I would suggest and hope that authorities would start realising that there’s not a need for all these stop signs and that yield signs would suffice in the bulk of situations. They’re just as safe, more efficient and still place a legal burden for a driver to ensure that it is safe to proceed.
In his TED talk, Gary Lauder goes over this concept and while I don’t agree that his new sign is necessary, he at least highlights the many issues with using stop signs as liberally as we do in America.
I’d also like to introduce the idea of using roundabouts (traffic circles) more readily but knowing how hard most Americans find it to navigate these devices I’ll start with baby steps (despite roundabouts being far superior as proven by Mythbusters).