Cotton Woolling is a term many apply to the government’s attempts to protect people from themselves and careless, greedy and selfish idiots in society. The Stop Sign is just a big red octagonal piece of cotton wool that serves no purpose other than to insult the intelligence of the experienced driver.
Let’s take a look at the purpose of a stop sign. You must come to a complete stop at the intersection and give way to all traffic prior to moving into the intersection. Why stop? The bottom line is that we must give way to other vehicles so they don’t hit us and scratch our paint. Just a moment… apparently the possibility of causing serious injury to the occupants of either vehicle ranks pretty highly as well.
Okay, so the bottom line is safety. Obviously. What’s so unsafe about just giving way? How does coming to a complete stop actually make giving way safer?
Stop signs are usually found where visibility is reduced, such as on bends or near the crests of hills. Wouldn’t the average brain-bearing driver approach the intersection and decide for himself whether it is safe to enter the intersection or that stopping would be a good idea? That is obviously a naive question because the road toll figures in any country would suggest many drivers forget to take their brains with them. Many of us walk out the door forgetting our keys. This is fully understandable and relatively harmless. The difference is we’ll go back and get our keys.
Most people I see on the roads won’t stop if there’s nothing coming and I don’t blame them. It’s a waste. But they do approach slowly and carefully enough so they can stop if necessary, and that is the point. That’s called giving way. That’s the key issue here. Coming to a complete, unnecessary stop is just a superficial hoop we must jump through to please the lawmakers.
What if two cars collide at an intersection with a stop sign? It may be obvious one car didn’t give way but can anyone say he didn’t come to a complete stop? I doubt it. So the driver is unlikely to be charged with failing to stop at a stop sign. He’ll just cop the fail to give way. So what’s the point of it? It’s too difficult to enforce.
Now, having said all that, you might have noticed I said “Experience Driver” up the top. When I started teaching my son to drive I told him to treat every give way sign as a stop sign. Coming to a complete stop has merits for the inexperienced because they are still learning about stopping distances and reactions times and “getting the feel”, etc. In Victoria, Australia, leaner drivers must accumulate 120 hours of supervised driving before attempting a license test (this probably applies elsewhere, too, because I doubt we are innovative in this department). Once they pass the test they are on a Probationary License for a while. Perhaps during this time they should always completely stop at give ways signs. But enforcing this is just as hard as enforcing the normal Stop Sign rules. Maybe encouraging it as a good habit for the noobie drivers is not a bad idea.
And in the meantime, let’s stop with the cotton wool that is the Stop Sign and focus on the real issue: Gaining experience Giving Way.