• Defensive Driving Rule #22: Know How To Stop

    Red light and stop sign "runners" account for a good portion of the traffic collision fatalities every year. It's important to know how to stop.

    Driving is such a habit for us, and we are distracted by so many things, that it's easy to just "go through the motions," without really thinking about what we're doing. There's not a "traffic survival school" instructor anywhere that doesn't make jokes about "St. Louis" stops, or "California" stops. Others around the country probably have a different name for them. Perhaps the folks down in Florida call never quite coming to a complete stop, but rolling through at 3 to 5 mph "Mississippi" stops. Whatever the name, they are one example of drivers just going through the motions.

    Have you heard the statistic that most collisions happen close to home? It's true. There are at least a couple of reasons. First, we do most of our driving close to home, so we are more likely to be close when our number comes up. Second, when we get close to home, we let our guard down. We're almost there, so we relax, and we go on "autopilot." That's a very dangerous habit.

    Here's the most important part of this rule: STOP, then YIELD. Stop means "cessation of movement," measured at your tires and wheels. Then, really look both ways and proceed only when it's safe to do so. Too many times, the driver who was supposed to stop and yield never connects his mind to his eyes to analyze what he is seeing, and then he pulls out right in front of someone. You've got to THINK about what you are seeing; collisions happen when we, or the other guy, doesn't.

    I'm certain it's happened to most of us, probably more than once. I remember the first time it happened to me. I was on US-285 in central southern Colorado, driving southbound at about 3:00 in the afternoon. A rancher in an old pick-up truck on a county road pulled to the edge of the highway, stopped, watched as I approached, then pulled out when I was close enough he couldn't miss me. We did miss, but that was a miracle, I'm sure. It did make an impression on my 17-year-old mind. I am also certain he never saw me or my bright yellow Toyota until I was skidding sideways down the highway - but that's a lesson for another day.

    Rolling through stop signs is a sure-fire way to get a citation. The reason is that most law enforcement officers have seen drivers and their passengers die when making this error, so they feel fairly strongly about it. Stop means STOP. Then make certain you really SEE what's out there before you roll again!

    Keep it between the fenceposts!