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PSA to Drivers: Use the Stop Line

Image Credit: http://www.webtrafficschool.com/wts/content/Texas/images/stop.jpg

Image Credit: http://www.webtrafficschool.com/wts/content/Texas/images/stop.jpg

It’s an almost daily occurrence to spot drivers who stop well past the stop line. Most of the time, the drivers could easily stop before the line, but they ease on out past it anyways. These simple stop lines actually can have more than one function. They can give safe passage for pedestrians in the crosswalk and enable a safe turning radius for buses.  Usually the car that is past the line will have to back up anyways to make room for the bus, adding yet another element of danger.

I’ve had to walk out into intersections on numerous occasions downtown.  The driver is usually looking left at traffic to make a right turn on a red light, and not at the person that is walking right in front of them coming from the right hand side. It’s treacherous, and I usually sprint across the street in these cases. That’s obviously not ideal for all of our citizens.

This is a case where the street design already tells us what to do, yet it is routinely ignored by a decent percentage of the population. Keep this in mind whenever a topic comes about such as the perceived lawlessness of cyclists, or any time an accident involves a pedestrian and the comment thread on the web article appears to place blame on the victim. Abiding the rules is important for everyone, but this one in particular can have serious consequences if ignored.

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25 Responses to “ “PSA to Drivers: Use the Stop Line”

  1. Jeffrey C says:

    Couldn’t agree more. One problem though is when parking or landscaping is allowed right up to the perpendicular curb. Even after stopping behind the line, you have to keep creeping forward to try and see around what’s there if you are trying to turn right on red, etc.

    • Jon Brewer says:

      At least then, you can pull to to the line, check if pedestrians are crossing, and if it’s safe, slowly pull out to turn. Otherwise, simply wait until the light is green to turn.

      • Jeffrey C says:

        Thanks for schooling me on the obvious. My point was that other design considerations often pull you into the crosswalk area and inconvenience pedestrians who arrive after you’ve done so even if you checked before you started inching forward.

  2. Jon Brewer says:

    I always give them a little knock on their hood to remind them that they’re in the middle of the crosswalk or intersection.

    • GM says:

      I understand your concerns about drivers pulling out too far, but I highly advise you not to touch other people’s vehicles. Not only is it rude, but you may have an unwanted fight on your hands if you do it to the wrong person at the wrong time. Stay safe out there.

  3. Jim says:

    Totally agree and I would say Indy is pretty average at maintaining their stop lines and making sure that they’re present. Many times I notice the stop lines are practically out in the middle of the intersection instead of being back several feet. I’m curious if there’s a standard practice of stop line placement that the local road engineers follow or if it’s pretty much random or simply putting the lines where they were last time.

  4. Evan Bour says:

    We Could do what they do in Las Vegas. They have pedestrian bridges over really busy intersections on the strip.

  5. matsch says:

    As a daily bike commuter and pedestrian I couldn’t agree more and am enraged by this behavior every day. However, I noticed that I started doing this pretty quickly as well after coming to the US. I have come to the conclusion that the placement of the traffic lights is, at least in part, to blame. Having your traffic light in the middle of the intersection, far away from where you should stop, nudges you to crawl forward. A better placement of traffic lights on intersections could suggest, even force you where to stop.

    In Germany (and much of Europe), traffic lights are placed next to the stop line with good distance to crosswalks and the intersection (enough place for buses etc. to turn). If you crawl over the stop line you will have difficulties seeing the traffic light — hence, you won’t do it.

    Here are two images, which I hope are illustrating the better placement of traffic lights:
    http://www.dorstenerzeitung.de/storage/pic/mdhl/automatischer-bildimport/dz-hz/dorsten/2273023_1_0213KI-ROTTHOFSHOF.jpg?version=1297346022%7D
    http://schuelerlabor.informatik.rwth-aachen.de/sites/default/files/imagecache/width_180px/Gr%C3%BCn,%20gelb,%20rot%20-%20Aufbau%20und%20Programmierung%20einer%20Ampelanlage.png

    • Jim says:

      Although not the exact same as what you described, this is a pretty typical interesection in Milwaukee, WI:

      http://www.bizjournals.com/milwaukee/blog/real_estate/2013/02/key-lakefront-intersection-to-get.html?s=image_gallery

      • matsch says:

        Yes, interesting. This seems to come pretty close to what I mean in terms of traffic light placements. I think we would have traffic lights to the left and right of every lane, which would also allow for a full integration of pedestrian lights in the same pole (as it is somewhat started here). Although, if I interpret the photo correctly, there is an additional traffic light for each direction on the opposite side of the intersection. Might be a good compromise for larger intersections, but I’ve never seen it (necessary) in Germany.

        • Jim says:

          Yeah every traffic light controlled intersection in the state of WI has a light on both sides for every direction. It’s a pretty over-engineered road system, but then again it was settled mostly by Germans (I say this in good fun). 🙂

  6. Pat says:

    Is it a definitive law that you have to specifically stop at the stop line? I’ve often wanted to take a pic of the front of the car, then of the license plate when they drive off and report them. 🙂

    • Joe Smoker says:

      From Indiana State Code for Traffic Law:

      vehicular traffic facing a steady circular red or red arrow signal shall stop at a clearly marked stop line. However, if there is no clearly marked stop line, vehicular traffic shall stop before entering the crosswalk on the near side of the intersection. If there is no crosswalk, vehicular traffic shall stop before entering the intersection and shall remain standing until an indication to proceed is shown.

  7. Chris Barnett says:

    I see a whole lot more drivers stopping well behind the line because the light is placed so high that the driver can’t see if s/he pulls all the way up to the line.

    • Joe Smoker says:

      True. Or, by the time they look up from their phone or makeup, they are already too far to see the light.

    • Paul Lambie says:

      I sometimes stop short because, especially as a tall person with my eyes near the top of the windshield, I usually can’t see the stoplights hanging above the roadway. I wish Indy would place a lower signal on the pole to side of the road, as is common in other places.

      The lack of signals on the side also creates a dangerous situation when following a tall truck, because the view of the overhead signals can be completely obstructed even when following at the recommended two second distance. I’m sure I’m not alone in having unwittingly run a red light while blindly following a truck.

      On the original topic, couldn’t agree more about what a hazard it is to pedestrians. It’s unfortunately part of the local culture. Most drivers don’t really ever expect to need to stop for pedestrians, or don’t care to anyway. The frequency with which I see right turns on red without even coming close to a stop is indicative of a driving culture that does not consciously consider the safety of pedestrians. I’d love to see more enforcement on this issue. I’d also suggest that turns on red needn’t be permitted at any intersection where drivers must cross the stop line to see cross traffic.

      • Chris Barnett says:

        It’s a good think most drivers don’t know that you can turn left on red (one way to a one way) in Indiana, a situation that happens most often in the Regional Center area.

  8. ahow628 says:

    When I’m biking or walking without my kids, I’m pretty brutal with the yelling, banging on hoods, and generally giving death stares at drivers who encroach my territory. My favorite is taking pictures of cop cars sitting in the crosswalks and tweeting them to @IMPDNews which obviously never response.

    To Evan: COME ON! That is the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard. Indy is not the Vegas Strip. I, for one, would just cross the street anyway, even if there was a pedestrian overpass. Add in the fact that Indy refuses to spend money on anything and some exorbitant pedestrian overpasses aren’t going to happen. Also, what happens to bikes?

    To Pat: As Joe points out, there is a law. If anyone can give me a first-hand example of it being enforced, I will eat my hat. I will also eat my hat for first-hand examples of blocking the box in general being enforced.

    Finally, I would love to see some city (maybe Indy?) dump right on red. That is one of the most dangerous things around. I push my kid all over town in a stroller and without my vigilance, said stroller with baby probably would have been crushed a dozen times by people looking left to turn right when I have the walk signal.

    • Wes says:

      I couldn’t agree more with your comments about right on red. In a city like Indianapolis, you can safely do it in most areas, but it absolutely needs to be banned in Center Township, at a minimum. I first thought this would be a good idea while driving to Montreal for the first time. As you enter the city on its main roads, you see signs banning right on red unless otherwise noted. Indianapolis really doesn’t have the number of pedestrians walking Downtown yet for this type of law to be required, but drivers in this city don’t worry about police who care about cars ignoring crosswalks, running red lights, etc. Until we do things like banning turns on red or installing red light/speed cameras, Indianapolis will remain a dangerous place for pedestrians. Drivers aren’t going to change their behavior when it’s basically encouraged. My least favorite intersection has to be Washington & West Streets. The one place where the Cultural Trail really needs cars to stop on red, there is not a red arrow giving pedestrians any time to pass safely. I also don’t believe there is anything preventing a driver from turning right on Washington when heading South on West while the light is red.

      • Jim says:

        While I mostly agree with you, I have to point out how terrible an idea red light cameras are. They’ve been shown time and again to be a bigger hazard than running red lights in the first place (no I don’t have a citation, but one only needs personal experience with them to know why this is true). What we need are city streets that create the feeling to drivers like they need to be more careful and you do that through decreasing lanes widths, increasing the number of visual things a driver has to watch out for such as parked cars, pedestrian activity, etc. When divers go slower on peak speed, drivers are much more consistent in stopping for red lights. Also I think decreasing the length of the yellow light would go a long way as well. Indy has a very long yellow whereas in other cities with shorter yellow lights, people feel the need to stop more readily. Putting traffic signals at the beginning of each intersection instead of after would also help as it really gives the driver a greater sense that they just went through an intersection on red.

        • Joe Smoker says:

          You have correctly identified the major issue with Indy’s DPW. They “design” for the driver that will break the law, not for the impact of reinforcing the law. We create ROW’s and turn radii for the person traveling above the speed limit so there is “less likely hood of them contacting something in the event of a crash”. INDOT does this with highways as well. Additionally, we put stop lights beyond the intersection for the driver that pulls up too far. Their theory is that we reduce liability by planning for the driver who won’t follow the law.

  9. JWAC says:

    Maybe a policy banning right turns on red needs to be instituted in the mile square. At most intersections, one has to pull past the crosswalk to get the visability to make a right turn on red. If such a policy were instituted, it would keep people from attempting to turn right on red. In doing so, it would create a safer and more predictable environment for pedestrians.

    • ahow628 says:

      Right on red is actually banned at many intersections in the Mile Square. People run it all the time anyway though most are by the Cultural Trail so people are a little more cautious.

      I agree though that a blanket ban and some signage as you enter the Mile Square would be awesome.

  10. jon deaux says:

    I’ve had people tell me to “just go around”, even when they’ve pulled so far forward that they are blocking the pedestrian crossing.

    I’ve also seen people realize that they are blocking the pedestrian crossing and back into the car behind them when they realize what they’ve done.

    What is especially frustrating is seeing “law enforcement” do the same things, or fail to enforce blatant traffic law violations.

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