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Running the Stop Signs

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Thousands of car accidents each year are caused by drivers that run stop signs. There were 13,627 cars involved in fatal automobile accidents caused by running a stop sign in 1999 and 2000, according to the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) by the NHTSA.

Below are helpful tips to ensure you are properly following stop sign laws to keep you as well as other drivers and pedestrians safe on the road.

Obeying Stop Signs Prevents Car Crashes

While each state carries specific laws, in all countries the driver must come to a complete stop at a stop sign, even if there is no other visible vehicle or anyone looking. Most accidents occur when drivers are impatient and roll through a stop sign. A partial stop is not acceptable and most times will result in a traffic violation.

Count to three after stopping and look for vehicles in all directions – to the left, the right and also across from you.

Stopping vs. Yielding

A common driving mistake, that can be very dangerous, is failing to understand the difference between a stop sign and a yield sign. While treating a yield sign like a stop sign isn’t dangerous, treating a stop sign like a yield sign is. With a stop sign you must stop – no matter what. With a yield sign, if there are no other cars, you can slowly roll through.

Four-Way Stop

The law behind a four-way stop is “first come, first go.” The first car to stop at the stop sign gets to go first, and then the person to the right goes until the square has gone. While this may be the rule, it's still important to observe the other cars.

State Laws

Each state carries traffic laws that specifically require "obedience to traffic control signals and devices" (or similarly-worded language), meaning drivers must observe and obey all traffic lights and stop signs when operating vehicles.

For state specific laws, refer to Running a Red Light / Stop Sign: Laws in All 50 States.

History of the Stop Sign

Stop signs first originated in Michigan in 1915. As stop signs became more widespread, a committee supported by the American Association of State Highway Officials (AASHO) met in 1922 to standardize them, and selected the octagonal shape that has been used in the United States ever since.