four way stop, wait turn
democracy in action
signal of the end?
I have long thought that the first signs of the end or at least the beginning of the beginning of the end would be a disregard for the traditional four way stop.
I am not referring to what was called the ‘Michigan Slide’ as you slowed for the stop sign and zoomed through if no cars were at the intersection.
I mean if drivers paid no attention at all the rules of the four way stop.
The State of Michigan publication, What Every Driver Must Know states: “You reach a four-way stop intersection with a stop sign at each corner of the intersection. The driver who arrived at the intersection and stopped first has the right of way through the intersection. If two or more vehicles reached the intersection at the same time, the vehicle on the left should yield to the vehicle on its right.”
I have to admit that when I started writing this I did not expect such open ended language as the vehicle on the left should yield to the vehicle on its right instead of MUST yield but I will go on.
I have to mention my pet peeve on this though.
No where does it say you wait until cross traffic has cleared the intersection completely before you enter the intersection.
I guess this leads to my ‘snooze you lose’ comments when I give up waiting for that driver on the left.
Now to go on.
The four way stop is a picture democracy and cooperation at its most base level in the ideal.
The greater good for the greatest number of drivers.
Everyone gets their turn.
Everyone has to wait.
Everyone has respect for the other driver.
Everyone is fairly inconvenienced.
No one is singled out and picked on.
No one is singled out and gets special preference.
It requires cooperation.
For the most part it works out okay.
It works when everyone follows the rules.
It works when everyone follows the same rules.
It works when everyone follows the same rules and they know what the rules are.
What happens when folks every don’t know the rules, don’t follow the rules or just don’t care?
Hard to imagine that the four way stop could be improved on.
Like all things in America however, there are those who think this can be improved.
Don’t want to pick on anyone but it sure seems like traffic engineers are folks who can’t leave well enough alone.
Mr. Bill Bryson writes that traffic engineers cannot fix traffic problems but then can spread them out over a larger area.
And to digress, if you took all the cars in the United States and put them end to end in one place what would you have?
The answer to the ‘problem’ of the four way stop that is turning up more and more is the traffic circle.
This is happening despite the traffic laboratory that has been maintained for years in Washington DC with such nightmares as the circle around the Lincoln Memorial.
To me it would seem that if any local traffic council spent 10 minutes or 2 hours or a day or two stuck going around Mr. Lincoln they would never approve a traffic circle.
Here in the low country there is a love affair with traffic circles.
The love them so much they make them two lane circles.
The outer is supposed to be for drivers making a right turn.
The inner lane for drivers going straight through or what would have been a left turn.
The only directions at the intersection is a sign that says, “YIELD TO BOTH LANES.”
It can be a head scratcher.
Some drivers approach boldly and enter the circle at speed and weave back and forth across the lanes.
Most drivers approach tentatively and yield to any and all traffic both real and imaginary.
You can feel the frustration build up as the bold drivers and tentative drivers mix with each other.
But it at least eliminates the questions of who got their first and who is on the left.
You buys your ticket and you takes your chance and you drive right in.
It can be downright scary.
Also for some reason the State of South Carolina doesn’t seem to beleive in either street lights or roadway reflectors.
On reflectors, that may be because the State of Georgia took them all.
Anyone who has driven through Atlanta on I75 at night and gone through the I285 interchange will know what I mean.
I sometimes thought the just tossed handfuls of reflectors out there for no reason.
But back to the circle.
I can say this, it would never work in a snowy, slippery climate.
Not that that would stop the State of Michigan from trying them.
There are the latest thing after all.
I like the four way stop.
I think they work.
I can handle the circle, sure.
In place of cooperation, drivers go and expect other drivers to get out of the way.
Both get you to the other side of the road.
But if you aren’t careful.
All you do is go around in circles.