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April 11, 2008 3:23 PM   Subscribe

What to do when you're behind someone that pulls way ahead of a Stop sign?

This question has bothered me for a long time and no one in my life knows the answer.

There are a number of intersections with Stop signs between the main road and my least four. The drivers around here have the tendency to drive past the Stop sign and stop about one to one and a half car lengths away from the Stop line (not sure what it is called, but the line on the road used to indicate where you are actually supposed to stop while at a Stop sign).

If I'm behind someone that does this, I'm now stopped at the Stop line where I'm supposed to be but they've pulled ahead of the Stop sign and then stopped. What do I do when it is my turn to go thru the intersection? Pause longer or pull ahead and then stop, as they did?

I'm reluctant to pull ahead and then stop because almost I and almost all of my friends have been pulled over by the police for not stopping where we were supposed to and I want to avoid getting a ticket.
posted by Diskeater to Travel & Transportation (30 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
If you're uncomfortable pulling ahead of the line for legal, politeness or other reasons, then don't pull ahead of the line.
posted by Static Vagabond at 3:28 PM on April 11, 2008

I'd stay right behind the line where you're supposed to be; just pause longer. If it makes it any easier, pull up about 1/2 a car-length from the line, giving the offender the chance to back up if he wants to. Then after the offending car goes, pull all the way up to the stop line.

You might find that you start a trend, where the people behind you will actually properly stop at the line, and so-on and so-forth.

Must be a weirdly-designed intersection for people to consistently pull ahead of where they are supposed to stop.
posted by jabberjaw at 3:34 PM on April 11, 2008

If you need to pull ahead and stop further into the intersection (after you've stopped at the stop line) in order to see cross traffic and safely proceed, then do so. If you don't need to, then don't. Perhaps I misunderstand your question, but why does it matter what the person in front of you did?
posted by ssg at 3:37 PM on April 11, 2008 [1 favorite]

I don't know about the legal aspect, but I always pause a little bit longer. Definitely don't stop twice. If there's confusion about whose turn it is with people stopped from other directions (because one or more of you couldn't see and doesn't know who stopped first, or because they're confused about how the other guy affects things), stay behind the line and work it out with hand signals or something.
posted by equalpants at 3:40 PM on April 11, 2008

I don't see the problem, if I'm in that situation, I don't pull ahead. One thing to be careful of though, is if the person in front of you [who stopped past the stop sign], decides to correct his mistake and starts to back up. For that reason, I would give him a little extra room, just in case.
posted by Chessbum at 3:43 PM on April 11, 2008

This exact thing happened to me. I was behind the pulled-ahead car, stopped right at the line on the road indicating where the proper stop should be made. A cop ticketed me.
I fought the ticket and the cop did admit (to his credit) that my story was true - I was stopped at the line. The judge threw the ticket out. He said that any cars ahead or behind me were of no concern - regardless of their presence, if I'm stopped at that line for the obligatory time, I'm good to go.

So you may risk getting a ticket from a cop who doesn't know better, but would prevail in fighting it. But any cop that knew better wouldn't ticket you, and if you were pulled over, he should be able to understand the validity and legality of your position.

BTW, that was Utah law, but I'm sure it's the same anywhere else.
posted by Detuned Radio at 3:45 PM on April 11, 2008 [1 favorite]

I always carry on as if the person that ignored the stop sign didn't exist - the stop line is for you to stop at before proceeding, and that is exactly what you did (assuming a clear intersection).

Mind you, I rarely stop for them at all if it is clear, so maybe I'm not the best bar to judge against. But I think it is the same as if the guy in front of you barrelled through at 50mph - irrespective of what they did, you complied with the letter of the law, as you stopped at the stop line.

Lack of someone else following correct procedure shouldn't mean you have to modify the correct procedure yourself.
posted by Brockles at 3:45 PM on April 11, 2008

The rules, as I was taught them (admittedly in Australia, not US), were that you must come to a complete stop at the line, but you could then edge forwards as necessary until you could properly see the traffic. So going past the stop sign is perfectly okay, provided you came to a complete stop at the designated line beforehand.

But it's often not feasible to pull away after stopping without first edging forward to get a better look at the traffic. Especially when there are trees, or parked trucks, or whatever else wasn't there when they painted the lines. So stopping twice is in fact the correct course of action.

Many of us (myself included, I'm sorry to say) do what's known as a rolling stop. It means you almost stop, but do not, basically treating a stop sign in a similar manner to a Give Way sign. This behaviour is illegal, and you can get booked for it. I still remember my driving instructor telling me that when long-time drivers are restested, lots of the fail for doing rolling stops at stop signs.

I also think Jabberjaw's idea is good. Leave at least a car length of room for the car in front to back up in case he/she's dangerously overextended.
posted by kisch mokusch at 3:47 PM on April 11, 2008

I suspect that the OP wonders much along the lines that I do in this situation, namely, if I can complete my stop legally, before the prior car leaves the intersection ahead of me, have I really made the legally required stop, or do I have to wait until they've completely left the intersection before I can "count" my stop.
posted by nomisxid at 3:52 PM on April 11, 2008

I give them room to back up.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:00 PM on April 11, 2008

If it's a four-way stop and there are other cars stopped, I would judge when it's your turn to go as though you arrived at the moment the car ahead of you pulled away (as though s/he were stopped at the line).
posted by winston at 4:00 PM on April 11, 2008

If it were me, I'd let the car in front of me proceed, THEN make sure that no one else was coming (as if I had just arrived at the line), and then go. If it's a 4-way stop or something like that, I'd let the person in front of me go, then let people to my left/right go, and then take my turn.

Basically, I'd treat it as if the person had stopped where they were supposed to, and then after they went, I pulled up to the line and did what I was supposed to do. Except that you wouldn't have to pull up to the line, because you're already there.

Maybe I'm too cautious, but if I were one of the other people coming from the left/right at a 4-way stop, I'd expect the person at the line to let me go after the other car went. All in all, it's a few extra seconds, but you'd be erring on the safe side, and that's always a good idea in the car, right?

I give them room to back up.

Yeah, this is a good idea too. Lay back a bit until they've cleared the intersection, then pull up to the line.
posted by AlisonM at 4:06 PM on April 11, 2008

Oh, and agreeing with other people that it's cool/legal/advisable to inch up a bit after the line to see in either direction if your line of sight is blocked. Just make sure you're at the line for a second or two after the first car has cleared the intersection, and you should be fine, ticket-wise.
posted by AlisonM at 4:08 PM on April 11, 2008

When I was learning to drive in Wisconsin, you had to stop behind the white line, but were allowed to inch up after a full stop, as long as you weren't obstructing traffic or blocking someone's vision. I still do this. It's safer than pulling out without seeing what you are doing.

But you don't pull so far ahead that you will be in traffic, and I would never inch up behind a car. That's just rude.
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 4:10 PM on April 11, 2008

The way I think about it is that the time you spend at the stop line while there is still car ahead of you does not count as part of your stopping for the stop sign. I think of it as each direction taking a turn - once the car ahead of you goes, the first person waiting in each of the other directions gets a chance to go before it is your turn. After you have come to full stop with no one in front of you and the people who were waiting at their stop signs had a chance to go then it is your turn. If you can't see well enough to know if it is your turn or if it is safe to go then you can then inch forward first and then go through.
posted by metahawk at 4:39 PM on April 11, 2008

From personal experience getting a ticket for doing otherwise: stop at the stop sign (but a smidge back) and act as if the person in front of you has stopped, then once they go roll a bit up to the sign and wait for the crossing car(s) to take their turn, and then proceed.

I got the ticket because I didn't do that (there was no crossing traffic, so I stopped at the same time and we went at the same time) and the cop said that it didn't matter where the other person stopped, I had to allow a brief pause before following them as if they'd stopped at the line. That's not a law per se, but the implication was that it shows you're paying attention, and not doing it shows that you're concentrating on getting through as quickly as possible instead of safety -- which is why she pulled me over.

It's safer, too, because cross traffic doesn't notice or care that the leading car stopped past the line; all they care about is that the leading car went, and now it's their turn to go. Being respectful of that view will keep you out of trouble.
posted by davejay at 5:00 PM on April 11, 2008

Er, "Act as if the person in front of you has stopped at the line". Sorry.
posted by davejay at 5:00 PM on April 11, 2008

Are the intersections built up? If so they are doing it for visibility.
You should leave enough of a gap between you and the car n front- as if they had stopped on the line to allow them to reverse in needed.
posted by mattoxic at 5:18 PM on April 11, 2008

Our road rules in NZ also have the proviso that you aren't allowed to enter an intersection until you are sure you will be able to safely exit it. So while the stop and inch forward thing makes sense (and would also fulfill the rules) you can't then drive up behind the car in front and wait. You have to wait for them to move and either clear the intersection or be enough in the process of doing so that you know they will be totally gone before you get there before you start driving out. This also means that if they turn the corner and immediately get stuck behind a tail back on the other street and you've followed behind them and are now sticking out into the intersection, you're breaking the rules and can get a ticket (this is my pet peeve, I hate when people do this).

Under our rules at least (and presumably yours as it's pretty basic) you also need to be sure that no cars are coming that have right of way over you before you start to drive into the intersection. It's kind of the point of the stop sign. This is why you specifically need to stop at the line and also inch forward if necessary before starting off. If the other car is still right in front of you and somehow blocking your view then you'd also have to wait for them to go away before you can adequately look around and decide if it's safe to go. In my experience the combination of things to look at means the other car is generally through the intersection before I start anyway without me specifically waiting for it.
posted by shelleycat at 7:17 PM on April 11, 2008

FWIW the name of the painted line is "Stop bar." This indicates the point at which you have to be at, or behind, when stopping at a stop sign. Sometimes people stop ahead of one if there's a sight line distance around a corner -- bushes or some other obstruction making it difficult to judge whether cross-traffic is coming. If it seems like it's an epidemic in your area, you might want to contact whoever is in charge of traffic engineering for your town, and have them take a look. They can make a judgement to re-paint the stop bar or move the sign further into the roadway, which might help to lessen confusion.
posted by brain cloud at 8:28 PM on April 11, 2008 [1 favorite]

*sight line distance blockage. Sorry.
posted by brain cloud at 8:29 PM on April 11, 2008

Stop where you're supposed to by law: either at the line or behind the sign. The actions of the driver ahead of you doesn't matter at all in the eyes of the law.
posted by iguanapolitico at 8:32 PM on April 11, 2008

If your goal is ticket avoidance, what you cannot do is stop at the line while they are stopped in front of you, and then take off from the line at the same time they do, essentially having 2 cars enter the intersection simultaneously. You need to have some sort of pause, either by staying at the line extra long or by edging forward and then making a second (rolling is OK) stop. The way to avoid a ticket is to blend in as much as possible and to make it look like you know what you are doing. The letter of the law is irrelevant, as much depends on the interpretations and instincts of an individual cop.
posted by Rock Steady at 9:48 PM on April 11, 2008

The drivers around here have the tendency to drive past the Stop sign and stop about one to one and a half car lengths away from the Stop line

Your stop lines are really, really far back from the intersection, if that's the case.

What do I do when it is my turn to go thru the intersection? Pause longer or pull ahead and then stop, as they did?

I don't understand this part. If it's your turn to go through, go through -- don't stop. The guy in front of you pulled halfway in when it wasn't his turn. But he's still ahead of you. Your turn will not come until he has completed his passage through.

Don't overthink this. You don't need to be on his butt to get your turn.
posted by dhartung at 12:57 AM on April 12, 2008

The line is the "limit line" in California. In theary, it marks the point at which the center of your front axle must have come to a complete stop behind. This is why you'll often see crosswalks having a separate limit line painted before them. This is why there may be staggered limit lines on a diagonal intersection with multiple lanes, or holding back the left turn lane a bit short on a sharp incoming turn for drivers making a left from your right.

Legally you must stop before the limit line. Period. On a stop light once your front axle has crossed the limit line *before the light goes red* you're good to continue through the intersection, since legally you're "in the intersection". However, "you'd better have the pope as your witness" if you go through an intersection this late and have an accident or get a ticket.

Once you've come to a full and complete stop at the limit line, you've fulfilled the legal requirement regarding that limit line. Proceding forward in a safe manner is now your goal. Not stopping again. Sometimes this requires forward movement to be able to see if it's safe to proceed. Sometimes this requires stopping again. But the limit line is the limit line, and you need to have stopped there.

I am not your lawyer. I don't know the rules of your locality (though I'd bet they're as I stated). Functionally, I'd stop at the limit line and wait for my turn hoping to start a trend. That's assuming all approaching vehicles can see each other from their respective limit lines. Of course, I live in an area with "nice drivers" and this works...
posted by lothar at 10:29 AM on April 12, 2008

Wow, thanks for all the great responses.

Yes, I was talking about people that pull far ahead of the Stop line without stopping first. One of these intersections is slightly blocked by a building and I often creep forwards after stopping so I get a better view of oncoming traffic. And yes, some of the Stop lines are set a little far back.

I think I'll put a greater distance between me and the car in front of me in case they decide to pull ahead so that they have already gone thru the intersection before I stop my car.
posted by Diskeater at 12:12 PM on April 12, 2008

Legally you need to come to a complete stop at the stop bar long enough to determine if the roadway is clear enough for you to proceed. Everything else is irrelevant. Sometimes the sight distance is horrible enough that you might want to inch ahead so that you have a better view in either direction.

OTOH, when someone ahead of me does something like you mentioned I still stop a car length behind the stop bar with the assumption that they may back up for whatever reason. It happens quite often at stop lights.
posted by JJ86 at 1:51 PM on April 12, 2008

We don't have junctions like this in the UK. Do I have this right... you have "stop" signs where you *must* stop, even if there's no other traffic around? WTF?
posted by mr. strange at 3:51 PM on April 12, 2008

We don't have junctions like this in the UK. Do I have this right... you have "stop" signs where you *must* stop, even if there's no other traffic around? WTF?

Actually, mr. strange, if you check the Highway Code:
"You MUST stop behind the line at a junction with a ‘Stop’ sign and a solid white line across the road. Wait for a safe gap in the traffic before you move off."

The difference is that in the US they have 4-way junctions with STOP signs at all the entrances, which we don't have here (I think). Let's see if these code tags work - the junction would look like this:

----S S----

A junction like that in the UK would either have traffic lights at all entrances, or Give Way (or maybe Stop) signs at two of the opposite entrances and no restrictions at the others:


posted by EndsOfInvention at 4:19 PM on April 13, 2008

I totally got pulled over for this yesterday. I came to a stop right behind the line, the car in front of me went (we were both turning right on to an uncontrolled street), I verified that it was safe for me to go, and proceeded without stopping a second time. The cop claimed this was a violation but let me off with a warning.
posted by 0xFCAF at 3:07 PM on April 1, 2009

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