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Posted: 7/18/2008 10:20:09 PM EDT
Tear Down the Stop Signs!
John Stossel
Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Day after day in Warren, Mich., people wait in a long line to pay traffic fines. Many are there because police say they didn't come to a full stop at a stop sign. Often the policeman saying that is Officer David Kanapsky.

On last week's "20/20," you heard a motorist in court insist that she did come to a complete stop. The judge replied, as judges there often do: "I find Officer Kanapsky's testimony to be credible. He is an unbiased witness."

But the officer is not really unbiased. The more tickets he writes, the more overtime he gets. Last year, Kanapsky spent so much time in court he increased his pay by $21,000.

Rolling through a stop sign in Michigan puts two points on your driving record. That hikes your car insurance premium. Fighting the ticket could cost even more. So to avoid the points and legal fees, most people plead guilty to a lesser offense: impeding traffic. The court sounds like an assembly line, " ... no points ... $135 ... "

Last year, the town made half a million dollars from such fines. Some drivers told us it "seems like a moneymaking scam.

I don't know if that's true, but when some angry motorists complained to Heather Catallo, reporter for Detroit's ABC affiliate, she took her cameras out to see if the cops themselves stopped at the stop signs. Most didn't.

Her expose caused a ruckus in town. The mayor hired a new police commissioner, who told me the cops might have been on emergency calls. "They don't necessarily have to have their lights and sirens on," Commissioner William Dwyer said.

I told him the tape showed police cars rolling through stop signs on the way back to the police station.

"Did some officers make mistakes? Perhaps so," he said.

Dwyer denied the tickets were a moneymaking scam. He said he didn't think it odd that Kanapsky wrote thousands of tickets. "It's not unusual for a traffic officer to write 10 to 20 traffic violations a day, if not more."

Please. I'm all for highway safety, but I suspect that America's roads have too many rules, and that gives cops too much arbitrary power to harass people or profit off them. As the ancient Chinese philosopher Lao-Tse said, "The more laws that are written, the more criminals are produced".

I bet most Americans roll through stop signs. I do. It makes for a smoother ride, and it saves gas.

"ABC News" put cameras by stop signs in Warren, Mich., and in New York City. The video showed that in Warren, 72 percent of drivers did not come to a complete stop. In New York, 82 percent kept going.

Warren and other towns probably have too many stop signs. There's no proof that more signs save lives. Studies show that sometimes installing stop signs lowers accident rates, but in some cases more accidents occurred after signs were installed.

In this month's Atlantic, John Staddon argues that that America's omnipresent stop signs make us less safe. He writes, "Stop signs are costly to drivers and bad for the environment: Stop/start driving uses more gas, and vehicles pollute most when starting up from rest. ... [T]he overabundance of stop signs teaches drivers to be less observant of cross traffic and to exercise less judgment when driving -- instead, they look for signs. ...

"The four-way stop deserves special recognition as a masterpiece of counterproductive public-safety efforts. Where should the driver look?"

One Dutch town experimented by getting rid of most of its traffic signs. The result? Fewer accidents and fewer injuries.

Drivers look out for people instead of signs, and they negotiate their way through town.

Remember the stop sign in Warren, Mich., where Kanapsky wrote many of his tickets? It's been changed to a yield sign. One result: fewer accidents.

Police say, "etween Jan. 16, 2008, and May 21, 2008, there have been no accidents reported. During that same time frame in 2007, there were four crashes reported." Good. Let's get rid of more signs.

And to all the cops who eagerly punish us for doing what they do, give me a break.

Link
Link Posted: 7/18/2008 10:22:49 PM EDT
Just don't put in traffic circles or round-a-bouts.
Link Posted: 7/18/2008 10:24:30 PM EDT
It would be interesting to put a hidden camera on whatever intersection the aggressive officer is working one day, and see who's telling the truth.
Link Posted: 7/18/2008 10:30:02 PM EDT
The first thing I thought of was that Atlantic article. Then, good ol' Stossel referenced it!
Link Posted: 7/18/2008 10:35:20 PM EDT

Originally Posted By FLAL1A:
It would be interesting to put a hidden camera on whatever intersection the aggressive officer is working one day, and see who's telling the truth.


I'm guessing the cop is probably telling the truth, most people don't stop completely. I was told by a traffic cop that in Arizona not only must you come to a complete stop, but you must stay stopped for 2 seconds. How many people do you think do that? Even the ones that come to a complete stop when no other traffic is around probably doesn't stay completely stopped for 2 seconds. How many drivers in AZ who haven't taken a written test in the last year, which is like EVERYONE in the state who's live here a year or is over 16, even knows that rule exists? Laws like that, whether originally designed for safety or not, are used today to produce revenue on demand. He's right, it's time for them to go and the cops that use it to bolster the states income and line their own pockets can find real crime fighting to do and let the people get back to their own jobs.
Link Posted: 7/18/2008 10:41:22 PM EDT
[Last Edit: 7/18/2008 10:51:02 PM EDT by Tomislav]
I grew up in Warren. All aspects of the Warren city government are incredibly corrupt; this story is several months old, but the fact that the city does shit like this to make a little money is way older than that.
Link Posted: 7/18/2008 10:48:50 PM EDT

Originally Posted By KA3B:
Just don't put in traffic circles or round-a-bouts.


God, but I hate those circly-roundy things. I mean, WTF is is doing being two or three lanes deep, constantly moving, yet packed to the point where you cannot change lanes without paranoia of someone else pulling out into you?

At a 4-way, you have three places to look while not moving. In these damn loops you have to look left to see signs for what you're looking for, look right for people pulling out, and figure out which lane you need, all while trying to hold speed, hold lane on a constant turn, and not go too slow while giving yourself a second to figure out where you are THIS second.

There may be some login to them 'across the pond' where they seem popular, but the ones I've been in have all been hell.
Link Posted: 7/18/2008 10:49:00 PM EDT

Originally Posted By FLAL1A:
It would be interesting to put a hidden camera on whatever intersection the aggressive officer is working one day, and see who's telling the truth.



"I find Officer Kanapsky's testimony to be credible. He is an unbiased witness."


Gee he has no incentive to lie does he?


Kanapsky spent so much time in court he increased his pay by $21,000.

Link Posted: 7/18/2008 10:50:17 PM EDT

Originally Posted By KA3B:
Just don't put in traffic circles or round-a-bouts.


They are more efficient , but we as Americans are not used to them. If we grew up with them there would not be as many problems as we have now that cities seem to be resorting to them
Link Posted: 7/18/2008 11:35:55 PM EDT
I guess its just what your used to. In one morning of driving in America last month I encountered more stop signs than I have in 20 years of driving in the UK.
Link Posted: 7/18/2008 11:40:31 PM EDT
[Last Edit: 7/18/2008 11:45:07 PM EDT by Chairborne]

Originally Posted By KA3B:
Just don't put in traffic circles or round-a-bouts.


There is nothing wrong with roundabouts.

Even at the normal 4 way intersections here 99% of them have "give way" aka "yield" signs. Stop signs here are as rare as hen's teeth. It doesn't seem to cause a problem here, but of course people actually have to be trained to get a driver's license here too.

ETA: I drove through this thing in Swindon twice last weekend, I survived but didn't much care for it:



Most small rural roundabouts are little more than a painted circle in the middle of the intersections, you can drive straight through them if there is no cross traffic.
Link Posted: 7/18/2008 11:41:26 PM EDT
[Last Edit: 7/18/2008 11:41:51 PM EDT by sherrick13]
About 90% of Stop Signs could be replaced with Yield signs and we would be fine.


Link Posted: 7/18/2008 11:43:47 PM EDT

Originally Posted By sherrick13:
About 90% of Stop Signs could be replaced with Yield signs and we would be fine.




At least where I live, the carnage would be unbelievable
Link Posted: 7/18/2008 11:46:27 PM EDT

Originally Posted By sherrick13:
About 90% of Stop Signs could be replaced with Yield signs and we would be fine.




I agree with you.
Link Posted: 7/18/2008 11:48:35 PM EDT
[Last Edit: 7/18/2008 11:50:42 PM EDT by packingXDs]

Originally Posted By kill-9:

Her expose caused a ruckus in town. The mayor hired a new police commissioner, who told me the cops might have been on emergency calls. "They don't necessarily have to have their lights and sirens on," Commissioner William Dwyer said.


I have heard that numerous times on this very board when it comes to officers breaking traffic laws. Do they teach that line in the Academy or something?


Originally Posted By Subnet:

Originally Posted By sherrick13:
About 90% of Stop Signs could be replaced with Yield signs and we would be fine.




I agree with you.


+1
Link Posted: 7/18/2008 11:52:18 PM EDT

Originally Posted By Billmanweh:

Originally Posted By sherrick13:
About 90% of Stop Signs could be replaced with Yield signs and we would be fine.




At least where I live, the carnage would be unbelievable


Only until Darwinism thinned the herd a bit.
Link Posted: 7/18/2008 11:53:06 PM EDT
that's because John Stossel never drove in middle of India or Egypt. I'm pretty sure stop signs there are useless so it fits the wonderful idea of no stop signs. And I do not want to drive in such traffic.
Link Posted: 7/18/2008 11:53:41 PM EDT
I hate stop signs.
Link Posted: 7/18/2008 11:54:05 PM EDT

Originally Posted By Chairborne:

Originally Posted By Billmanweh:

Originally Posted By sherrick13:
About 90% of Stop Signs could be replaced with Yield signs and we would be fine.




At least where I live, the carnage would be unbelievable


Only until Darwinism thinned the herd a bit.


True.
Link Posted: 7/19/2008 6:47:19 AM EDT
^
Link Posted: 7/19/2008 6:49:54 AM EDT

Originally Posted By Subnet:

Originally Posted By sherrick13:
About 90% of Stop Signs could be replaced with Yield signs and we would be fine.




I agree with you.


I would like to think so also, but there are WAY too many stupid people in the world.
Link Posted: 7/19/2008 6:56:10 AM EDT

Originally Posted By DernHumpus:

Originally Posted By Subnet:

Originally Posted By sherrick13:
About 90% of Stop Signs could be replaced with Yield signs and we would be fine.




I agree with you.


I would like to think so also, but there are WAY too many stupid people in the world.

So work on the *problem* not the symptom.
Link Posted: 7/19/2008 7:00:37 AM EDT
[Last Edit: 7/19/2008 7:20:39 AM EDT by SmilingBandit]

Originally Posted By Chairborne:

Originally Posted By KA3B:
Just don't put in traffic circles or round-a-bouts.


There is nothing wrong with roundabouts.

Even at the normal 4 way intersections here 99% of them have "give way" aka "yield" signs. Stop signs here are as rare as hen's teeth. It doesn't seem to cause a problem here, but of course people actually have to be trained to get a driver's license here too.

ETA: I drove through this thing in Swindon twice last weekend, I survived but didn't much care for it:



Most small rural roundabouts are little more than a painted circle in the middle of the intersections, you can drive straight through them if there is no cross traffic.


I was a passenger and the magic roundabout scared the hell out of me.
Link Posted: 7/19/2008 7:01:49 AM EDT

Originally Posted By jrzy:

Originally Posted By FLAL1A:
It would be interesting to put a hidden camera on whatever intersection the aggressive officer is working one day, and see who's telling the truth.



"I find Officer Kanapsky's testimony to be credible. He is an unbiased witness."


Gee he has no incentive to lie does he?


Kanapsky spent so much time in court he increased his pay by $21,000.



He writes a lot of tickets and busts balls I am sure. He probably doesn't have to lie though. Most people do not come to a complete stop. They call it a rolling CA stop.

If everyone was ticketed who did that and it went to court, things would be bogged down for quite some time.
Link Posted: 7/19/2008 7:06:38 AM EDT
I can think of places that there should be no stop signs. Sometimes people don't know when to go at a stop sign.
Link Posted: 7/19/2008 7:09:51 AM EDT

Originally Posted By KA3B:
Just don't put in traffic circles or round-a-bouts.


I'll take a round-a-bout over a stop sign any day. 90% of the time I don't have to stop at a round about.

Way better than a full stop at an empty intersection.

Link Posted: 7/19/2008 7:10:06 AM EDT

Originally Posted By Subnet:

Originally Posted By sherrick13:
About 90% of Stop Signs could be replaced with Yield signs and we would be fine.




I agree with you.


I do too, but cities and states coffer tend to dislike our opinions.



It's all about savin' babies.
Link Posted: 7/19/2008 7:11:08 AM EDT

Originally Posted By Chairborne:



What the Hell!?
Link Posted: 7/19/2008 7:11:16 AM EDT

Originally Posted By DernHumpus:

Originally Posted By Subnet:

Originally Posted By sherrick13:
About 90% of Stop Signs could be replaced with Yield signs and we would be fine.




I agree with you.


I would like to think so also, but there are WAY too many stupid people in the world.


If 82% of New Yorkers already treat them like Yield signs anyways, what's the difference?
Link Posted: 7/19/2008 7:14:52 AM EDT

Originally Posted By markl32:

Originally Posted By KA3B:
Just don't put in traffic circles or round-a-bouts.


I'll take a round-a-bout over a stop sign any day. 90% of the time I don't have to stop at a round about.

Way better than a full stop at an empty intersection.



I drove thru them every day in Germany and they are more efficent and safer. You had to yield to the left so if someone was already in the circle you had to wait but if were to your right you could go.

works VERY well. Takes a bit of getting used too. The American adaptations of these are just stupid.
Link Posted: 7/19/2008 7:15:05 AM EDT
Link Posted: 7/19/2008 7:16:39 AM EDT
MI law enforcement has become all about revenue. Just look at our crime rates, you're fine doing drive bys as long as you don't speed while doing it
Link Posted: 7/19/2008 7:20:22 AM EDT

Originally Posted By DylanPorter:

Originally Posted By Chairborne:
eptivity.files.wordpress.com/2008/04/msn_magic_roundabout_470x350.jpg


What the Hell!?


It's called the magic roundabout. It makes even less sense from ground level.

www.armin-grewe.com/holiday/wiltshire/swindon-roundabout.htm
Link Posted: 7/19/2008 7:20:26 AM EDT
Link Posted: 7/19/2008 7:22:05 AM EDT
There should not be stops signs, just yield signs with escalating degrees of right-of-way.
Link Posted: 7/19/2008 7:25:06 AM EDT
/OST
Link Posted: 7/19/2008 7:25:40 AM EDT

Originally Posted By 3rdpig:

Originally Posted By FLAL1A:
It would be interesting to put a hidden camera on whatever intersection the aggressive officer is working one day, and see who's telling the truth.


I'm guessing the cop is probably telling the truth, most people don't stop completely. I was told by a traffic cop that in Arizona not only must you come to a complete stop, but you must stay stopped for 2 seconds.


I heard at one point that St. Louis had more stop signs per capita than anywhere on earth. I'd be inclined to believe it. Now of course, they have red light cameras up here and there, and seem to particularly enjoy ticketing right on red without a stop. A driver I know who called in on one because he was sure he was stopped was told that he had to stop for a full second. Looking at the relevant statues, that is simply not true. No mention of time in there whatsoever.

That said, they do need to get rid of at least half of the stop signs around here. There are places you can drive 20 blocks while stopping at every intersection. And they're worried about people refueling the lawnmower during the day
Link Posted: 7/19/2008 7:26:46 AM EDT

Originally Posted By John_Wayne777:

Originally Posted By FLAL1A:
It would be interesting to put a hidden camera on whatever intersection the aggressive officer is working one day, and see who's telling the truth.


In most cases, probably the officer.

Most people's conception of stopping probably doesn't fit the legal definition of it. People also have a bad habit of remembering things in the way most favorable to them as opposed to the way it actually happened.

Stossel is right about several things in that article. There ARE too many traffic laws, and to be perfectly honest even one day spent in a cruiser just looking for traffic citations will show you that a majority of drivers violate at least one traffic law during their drive time. In Virginia, for instance, you are supposed to signal at least 50 feet before making a turn or before changing lanes. Few people bother do to that, and as such they commit improper lane changes and turns all the time.

Part of the reason why there are too many traffic laws, however, is the public. There are always NIMBY dumbasses who insist on having stop signs in their neighborhood, or lower speed limits, or higher fines for violating the speed limit, etc. They are constantly haranguing the local officials with complaints and said officials will often give in to them just to shut them up.

There are also places (like Boone's Mill, Virginia) that know they are "drive through" areas and decide that they are going to be traffic nazis as a means of revenue generation. These do happen but in general they are not as much of a problem as the whining bastards mentioned earlier.

Traffic enforcement should be done with a light touch. You want enough enforcement that people generally obey the rules of the road but not so much that you create the kind of grumbling that leads to a reporter watching your officers at stop signs to see whether or not they come to a complete stop. That's bad management.

Most cops I know loathe writing traffic tickets. Being assigned to watch an intersection to make sure people come to a complete stop is damn near torturing them. They'd much rather spend their time stopping scumbags and looking for more important offenses than a soccer mom who didn't come to a complete stop.


So would you say that:

1.) It's more profitable to pull over soccer mom's than arresting scum bags? In other words, soccer mom is a better source of revenue than a drug dealer?
2.) It's safer to write a ticket to a soccer mom than arresting a scum bag?

The reason I ask and not to feel like your trapped is that most people would rather see cops arresting real criminals rather than harassing the soccer mom or dad.
Link Posted: 7/19/2008 7:28:56 AM EDT

Originally Posted By NimmerMehr:
There should not be stops signs, just yield signs with escalating degrees of right-of-way.


They have that in mainland Europe too, "priority roads" to clearly explain who has the right of way in unusual situations (three way intersection but the larger/primary road only takes one of the directions, no stop).
Link Posted: 7/19/2008 7:30:02 AM EDT
Link Posted: 7/19/2008 7:32:28 AM EDT

Originally Posted By FLAL1A:
It would be interesting to put a hidden camera on whatever intersection the aggressive officer is working one day, and see who's telling the truth.
I would almost guarantee the officer. Just like the article says, the vast majority of people don't come to a complete stop at stop signs. I only stop those that blow through them.
Link Posted: 7/19/2008 7:33:20 AM EDT

Originally Posted By 3rdpig:
I was told by a traffic cop that in Arizona not only must you come to a complete stop, but you must stay stopped for 2 seconds. How many people do you think do that? Even the ones that come to a complete stop when no other traffic is around probably doesn't stay completely stopped for 2 seconds.


What are the chances in AZ that if you do come to a complete stop and remain stationary for 2 sec that an illegal rear ends you?

In Detroit, actually stopping at a Stop Sign is a great way to get in an accident.
Link Posted: 7/19/2008 7:38:05 AM EDT

Originally Posted By KA3B:
Just don't put in traffic circles or round-a-bouts.



They're efficient but American drivers don't know how to use them. Teach them, and it'll be OK.


CJ
Link Posted: 7/19/2008 7:38:47 AM EDT
I always slow down, but if nobody is coming, I don't stop completely. My town is real bad about red lights. There's a few strings of about three blocks where, if one light goes red, three blocks go red. I'll initially stop, but if it's red for no reason, and no 5-0 is to be found, I'll run it. I'm not gonna sit at a light and waste expensive fuel because somebody two blocks over wanted to go the other way. That's fucked up.
Link Posted: 7/19/2008 7:45:20 AM EDT

Originally Posted By sherrick13:
About 90% of Stop Signs could be replaced with Yield signs and we would be fine.

I agree. Well, actually, I think we'd be better off.

I'm kinda funny about stop signs. Generally, I actually stop at them. The number of close calls for my back bumper is pretty amazing, as it's clear people don't expect someone to actually stop.

Traffic circles? They're okay most of the time, though they're not so good when they're full of traffic. I go through one every day I go to work.

Link Posted: 7/19/2008 7:46:31 AM EDT

Originally Posted By 3rdpig:
I'm guessing the cop is probably telling the truth, most people don't stop completely. I was told by a traffic cop that in Arizona not only must you come to a complete stop, but you must stay stopped for 2 seconds. How many people do you think do that? Even the ones that come to a complete stop when no other traffic is around probably doesn't stay completely stopped for 2 seconds. How many drivers in AZ who haven't taken a written test in the last year, which is like EVERYONE in the state who's live here a year or is over 16, even knows that rule exists? Laws like that, whether originally designed for safety or not, are used today to produce revenue on demand. He's right, it's time for them to go and the cops that use it to bolster the states income and line their own pockets can find real crime fighting to do and let the people get back to their own jobs.


I've reviewed the relevant AZ statutes, and I can't find this "2 second" rule. Why should it matter if I stop for .5 seconds, or 10 seconds. If I come to a complete stop, I stopped. That being said, if a cop wants to stop me for it, I'm getting stopped no matter what I actually did.

rr
Link Posted: 7/19/2008 7:49:28 AM EDT

Originally Posted By John_Wayne777:
There are also places (like Boone's Mill, Virginia) that know they are "drive through" areas and decide that they are going to be traffic nazis as a means of revenue generation. These do happen but in general they are not as much of a problem as the whining bastards mentioned earlier.


God in Heaven, I hate Boone's Mill. I used to have to drive through there on the way to school, and you can always tell who lives in Virginia and who doesn't, because everybody who knows moves over and slows way down, while the out-of-towners continue to haul butt.

There's at least one place like that on US 1 north of Raleigh, too.

Miserable bastards.

~BakerMike
Link Posted: 7/19/2008 7:50:27 AM EDT

Originally Posted By Canned_Ham:
I always slow down, but if nobody is coming, I don't stop completely. My town is real bad about red lights. There's a few strings of about three blocks where, if one light goes red, three blocks go red. I'll initially stop, but if it's red for no reason, and no 5-0 is to be found, I'll run it. I'm not gonna sit at a light and waste expensive fuel because somebody two blocks over wanted to go the other way. That's fucked up.


Sounds like you are in Oklahoma City. There was article in the paper about local traffic lights and it seems that there are only two spots in the entire metro area (pop. >1,000,000) where the traffic lights are synchronized. It's not unusual to hit a red light at EVERY intersection here!
Link Posted: 7/19/2008 7:53:36 AM EDT

Originally Posted By learath:
So work on the *problem* not the symptom.

Thats what the ticket does. It addresses the person who wont stop for the sign.
Link Posted: 7/19/2008 7:55:50 AM EDT
Sometimes I work with our traffic engineering department (helping them do sign inventories by providing geospatial support). The traffic group manager believes many regulatory and advisory signs are unnecessary and his professional opinion is that they often contribute to accidents. Unfortunately in the US the alternative to an onerous number of signs is lawsuits like crazy.

Link Posted: 7/19/2008 7:59:09 AM EDT

Originally Posted By John_Wayne777:
There are also places (like Boone's Mill, Virginia) that know they are "drive through" areas and decide that they are going to be traffic nazis as a means of revenue generation.

I don't know Boone's Mill, but the training epicenter of VA, South Hill, is known for this.

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