On my first evening in California, I was stopped by a police car – or highway patrol car, or whatever – for shooting a stop sign. But as John Staddon observes in The Atlantic Monthly,
Consider the stop sign. It seems innocuous enough; we do need to stop from time to time. But think about how the signs are actually set up and used. For one thing, there’s the placement of the signs—off to the side of the road, often amid trees, parked cars, and other road signs; rarely right in front of the driver, where he or she should be looking.
Then there’s the sheer number of them. They sit at almost every intersection in most American neighborhoods. In some, every intersection seems to have a four-way stop. 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. More to the point, however, the 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 and drive according to what the signs tell them to do.
The four-way stop deserves special recognition as a masterpiece of counterproductive public-safety efforts.
John Staddon, Distracting Miss Daisy, The Atlantic Monthly
So soon I’ll be driving again in the US, around Colorado, Wyoming and Utah. I’ll try to remember not to overtake yellow buses, I’ll try to bear the crawling overtake as two lanes of cars set their cruise control speeds only the tiniest fraction apart, I’ll curse the absence of roundabout and marvel at the lights strung across intersections on crossroads miles from anywhere. and I hope i wont be adding to the stats that make the US a considerably more dangerous place to drive.