Column: The Whiteboard Jungle: Fewer and fewer people heed traffic laws, particularly at stop signs


Do you stop at stop signs? So few drivers do that Glendale posted temporary electronic signs informing drivers to “stop at stop signs.” What’s next: “breathe in and out”?

Maybe I’m a dinosaur, but I actually stop, not slow down, not a California stop, but an honest to goodness full and complete stop. About the only place where you see this is at the rides at Disneyland.

I do this even when no one else is around to see me do it. I want to have the muscle memory to instinctively make full stops just in case a police officer may be around.

Because there are so many four-way stops in my neighborhood, I am extra sensitive to drivers who view the stop sign as optional. Not a day goes by that I don’t observe dozens of motorists brazenly cruising through with barely a decrease in speed.

Last week, city workers were putting on a fresh coat of paint on a crosswalk near a school. There were orange cones all around this four-way stop as they did their work; they were impossible not to be seen.

Yet a truck driver going 30 mph drove through the intersection as if the stop sign was not even there. All the workers could do was mockingly applaud as he flew by.

About the only time people slow down or even stop is when multiple motorists arrive at the same time. Then the merry-go-round game begins figuring out which driver arrived first, which one is to the right, etc.

The other day I pulled up to such an intersection. Cars were at each of the four stop signs.

To my left was a car making a left turn. The next driver to go was supposed to be me. Just as I released my brake ready to enter the intersection, the car immediately behind the one that made the turn quickly followed right behind so closely that it appeared one car was towing the other.

It was one of those eye-popping “did that just happen” moments. There were at least five other drivers who witnessed that illegal and highly dangerous maneuver.

What was going through the mind of that man behind the wheel? Obviously, he did not give a whit about the rules of the road and was determined to shave off a few seconds from his commute — to hell with everybody else.

More disturbing was to realize he did not care what anybody there thought of his daredevil antic. He had no shame or embarrassment.

Those who ignore traffic laws must convince themselves that driving recklessly outweighs the financial penalty of being caught once in a blue moon.

In what little research that exists on the matter, there is no correlation between getting moving violations and changing one’s driving habits.

So if the law does not alter people’s behavior, the only thing left is for individuals to have a moral responsibility to do the right thing and be courteous to others. I recognize this is so 1960-ish. However, we all could benefit from more teaching of one’s civic duty both in the home and at school.

One quick fix at four-way stops would be to install speed bumps; at least they would slow people down.

A more draconian solution would be too expensive to implement: embed spikes into the white lines where cars need to stop. A computer can detect which car arrives first and if a car makes a complete stop. Not until that is determined do the spikes recede allowing clear passage.

Until then, it wouldn’t hurt to update defensive driving tip No. 1: “watch out for all the other guys.”

BRIAN CROSBY is a teacher in the Glendale Unified School District and the author of “Smart Kids, Bad Schools” and “The $100,000 Teacher.” He can be reached at