(December 20, 2023) Listen to audio here.

When did making a full stop at stop signs become optional? I see cars rolling through a four-way stop in my neighborhood every day when my husband and I walk our dog. If we aren’t right at the intersection, I may quietly quote the character Dionne from the 1995 eminently quotable movie Clueless and say, “Hello, that was a stop sign?” Then I smile as I remember her friend Cher’s reply from behind the wheel, “I totally paused.” As if that makes it okay.

But if we happen to be waiting to cross the street in the yellow-painted crosswalk—yes, there is an elementary school a block away—and the driver rolls through in front of us, I will probably holler, “STOP SIGN!” That often gets their attention.

Rolling through a stop sign, which some call a “California stop” (haha) is never okay. It’s unsafe. It’s illegal. If a cop sees you, the ticket will cost you at least $238. Regarding stop signs, the California driver’s handbook is clear: “Make a full stop before entering the crosswalk or at the limit line.” The vehicle must stop moving.

Tesla ignored all this when it programmed cars testing the full self-driving feature to roll through stop signs. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration put the kibosh on that, requiring Tesla to recall and reprogram nearly 54,000 vehicles in early 2022.

When I was teaching my daughters to drive, I insisted they make a complete stop at stop signs, where the car bounces back a bit after stopping. I didn’t find that recommendation in the DMV handbook, but it’s a way to make sure the wheels have stopped moving. I still do it.

Stopping at stop signs has become so unusual that if I’m a pedestrian ready to cross at an intersection and drivers do not breeze through in front of me, I will smile and wave to express my gratitude. It’s delightful to be reminded that fellow humans can indeed show common courtesy by following the rules of the road.

With a Perspective, I’m Debbie Duncan