Shock: Drivers Run Stop Signs Too…And Don’t Like Getting Tickets

If you’re a cyclist, and you have family or close friends who are not, you’ve probably gotten in to an argument about those darn cyclists who are always running stop signs.  If you’re blessed only with family and friends who ride, then you just get to hear about those scofflaw cyclists from the police and LAPD as an excuse not to treat other cyclists with respect.

Photo: ## Press##
Photo: ## Press##

Well, it turns out that Southern California drivers don’t always obey stop signs either.  And, surprise surprise, they also don’t like getting tickets, either.

A recent article written by Associated Press writer Daisy Nguyen chronicles a debate that has sprung up over seven “stop sign cameras” in Los Angeles County parks and the people ticketed by them.  Read some of the quotes from scofflaw car drivers and ask yourself if there would be a sympathetic article written about 34,875 cyclists getting ticketed for clearly breaking a law and being upset about it.  Then consider the track record of reckless cyclists killing anyone but themselves with reckless driving being one of the leading causes of death in America.

Here’s some of the quotes from the A.P.:

“I was totally shocked,” Wilson said. “I knew there were signs there. I didn’t think they’d be that strict and be that expensive.”

According to the Fatality Analysis Reporting System, there were 13,627 cars involved in fatal automobile accidents caused by running a stop sign in 1999 and 2000.

“Enforcement of something so small to add to the revenue stream strikes me as very wrong,” said Eli Sanchez, who was nabbed twice for breezing past a stop sign at the entrance to a park overlooking the San Fernando Valley.

Just yesterday, a renowned burn surgeon in Fort Worth Texas, was killed by a motorist running a stop sign.

“I did break a law but I don’t think I did anything unsafe,” Wilson said. “If you get pulled over by a cop you get shaken and say ‘I’m not going to do this again.’ I had no warning between each one.”

Well, no warning besides the big red sign telling him to STOP.

  • The article on KCBS’ website (it was their “reporting” that got this story going–read the report and detect the obvious bias) thankfully had a lot of comments from people who reacted with “good” or “and?” when told that people were being ticketed for not stopping at stop signs.

  • Marcotico

    I live in a suburban area, and there is a T-intersection with the dead-ending road having a stop sign. Over the last three months, I’ve become aware of the fact that I’d guess 90% of the people at this intersection roll through the stop. Its unbelievable, then I have to read articles with commentators complaining about bikes not stopping for stop signs. Give me a break!

    The other thing I’ve noticed is that few drivers have any concept of the speed limit. A couple of months ago, I drove from Long Beach airport to Irvine, on a Sunday afternoon. As an experiment I decided to drive the speed the limit the entire way, and it was torture. I couldn’t believe how slow it felt, and how many cars back up behind me, both on the freeway and on the surface streets. I felt like I was driving through molasses. I imagine if most people have no idea how often they are speeding.

  • I think everyone can agree stopping at the stop sign is good. However the way this is enforced seems to be skirting the legal means. Conflicting with CVC and saying this is on land that is governed by MRCA seems draconian. So every private property owner can install stop sign cameras and bust you. Imagine getting a stop sign ticket from wallmart, costco and best buy……

    It is a clear ploy to gain revenue at the expense of the public.

    Again I am all for people getting tickets for stop signs, but I think it should be based on California vehicle Code.

  • Joe

    I cycle, and I hike in parks (a lot), so I’m all for people driving safely. But I do think that the people complaining about these cameras have some valid points. Remembering that the goal is ostensibly to reduce dangerous driving, I don’t think that these cameras do so in a very efficient or fair way. Rather, I think that they are a thinly-masked method of generating revenue.

    Complaints tend to boil down to two issues. The first is that the violater is not promptly notified of their citation; the second is that the penalty is out of proportion to the offense.

    When a violator is not promptly informed of their offense, they are unlikely to correct it. In this case, that means that the violator is likely to continue running stop signs for an entire month before they get their first citation! If the cameras had a simple “notice of violation” light (and a notice of the fine) that went on when a motorist ran the sign, they would be much more effective because the motorist would be disciplined immediately. This would be a cheap and easy modification. But it would also decrease revenue. The fact that there is no such immediate notification is evidence that the lights are being used for revenue enhancement, not primarily to increase safety.

    As to the second complaint: Fines for running stop signs are generally high ($200-ish) because motorists are only cited a small minority cases, and the threat of a high fine helps deter unsafe behavior even if the motorist is unlikely to be cited. But with a photo-enforced sign, the motorist is cited for almost every violation. A much smaller fine (say, $30) would be an effective deterrent. (Would you run a stop sign if you KNEW that it would cost you $30?) The fine is unnecessarily high, not for safety’s sake, but solely to enhance revenue.

    Additionally, some of these stop signs are unnecessary from a safety standpoint. Consider the sign at the top of Reseda:

    There is no cross-street, and sight-lines are good. Jersey barriers have been installed to block part of the road, but it would be safe for a motorist to simply slow and yield to uphill traffic. Passing through this stop sign at a slow speed would be COMPLETELY SAFE; there is no need for a stop sign. But the sign enhances revenue, especially because motorists are more likely to run it because there is no safety issue.

  • Carter R

    I don’t think drivers should gripe too much about getting tickets for going through stops signs. It has always been the law.

    However, when the de facto outcome is that it’s somewhat of a regressive tax to raise money for parks, I think that’s legitimately concerning. I support the Santa Monica Mountains parks system to the bone. It’s just sad that the state is in such a mess that the conservancy has to “get creative” to raise revenue.

    And meanwhile we’re spending billions on prisons…

  • To quote Meg Whitman

    “Illegal is just that, illegal”

    Break the law, pay the fine.

  • norm

    Please say thanks to Governor Schwarzenegger for vetoing a ridiculous bill which would have lowered fines for failing to stop before making a right turn at a signal. It galls me that motorists can universally disregard the safety regulations with almost no chance of ever getting caught, and it enrages me that they would like it to be convenient for them if they are.

    Bikes don’t cause 30,000 American deaths every year.


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