- Practice Areas
The other day, I saw a driver blow through a stop sign at a four-way stop. Worse, she proceeded to do the same thing all the way down the avenue, running stop sign after stop sign as though the signs and critical rules of the road were just gentle suggestions to be ignored, and if that blatant disregard for the rules of the road wasn’t enough, she then did it at a four-way stop in my child’s school zone. I became angry and frustrated about drivers not following the rules of the road.
Why did she think she was above the law? Clearly, she was consciously deciding to run those stop signs, but, in my experience, it’s more common for people to run stop signs because they’re simply not paying attention. They blow through the stop sign and, too late, realize what they did. It’s usually an honest mistake and many of us have done it.
And yet, the consequences of missing a stop sign when you’re driving – whether you’re doing it purposely or accidentally – can be life-altering for the driver and for any victims that you hit. Whether it be running a red light and causing an accident or running a stop sign, stop sign accidents leave one question – who’s at fault?
Accidents from missed stop signs are all-too common and the injuries they cause can be significant.
Now, on the legal side of things, you’d think this would be a slam-dunk. Someone ran a stop sign and caused damages and injuries. Case closed, right? Nope, not always.
Sometimes the negligent driver tries to claim that they weren’t at fault, that they didn’t run the stop sign or otherwise ignore following rules of the road. Then it turns into she said/he said and, sometimes, an insurance company will fight for their driver even when it’s obvious they were at fault. Insurance companies rarely care about right and wrong; they want to pay as little as possible. So, they’ll fight for whatever is cheaper for them.
Lesson? It doesn’t mean it’s your fault, but you need to get witnesses. Witnesses can help you prove that the other driver came out of nowhere and that you had the right of way. Also, take lots of photos, especially if you see that the other driver hit the brakes at the last minute and made skid marks on the road. Get shots of those skid marks.
More and more people are driving with cameras on their dash so that they can catch other drivers’ bad behavior (of course, the driver with the camera could also catch his or her own mistakes). Here are two examples of videos that capture near-misses from running a stop sign:
When it comes to running a red light and causing an accident, many city red light intersections have cameras now, which also helps to find and determine the faulty driver.
Now, I know that there are actually people who think that it’s legal to slow and roll through a stop sign when they think no one else is around, so I thought it useful to share Colorado’s laws regarding stop signs. The following is from the Colorado Driver Handbook, published by the State of Colorado:
“Stop Signs: This sign means you must come to a complete stop. Stop at the marked stop line or, if none, at the point just before the intersecting street. If there is a crosswalk, you must come to a complete stop before entering it. You may proceed only after yielding to all pedestrians and vehicles.”
And while I’m at it, let’s talk about stopping for school buses. When a school bus’s doors open, that red stop sign pops out for a reason. You need to stop for school buses!
When a school bus is about to stop, you’re given plenty of warning. Yellow lights flash all over the bus to let you know that it is about to stop. When that happens, slow down and prepare to stop. Why? Because school buses mean children are in the immediate area. And children are hard to see and are unpredictable. That’s a dangerous combination near roads.
When the bus stops and the red stop sign pops out, drivers on both sides of the bus (oncoming traffic as well as drivers behind the bus) must stop. It is the law in Colorado. In fact, school bus drivers actively help to enforce the state law. They can take down license plates, descriptions of the drivers, and report them to the sheriff’s office. The fine is up to $300, a mandatory court appearance, and six points on a license. A second offense within a five-year period will cost $1,000 if you decide to ignore the rules of the road.
But of course, the worst risk is to the children’s safety.
Typically, the inattentive driver misses a stop sign and runs right into traffic that may be going 40 miles per hour, sometimes more. If the driver is lucky, he or she skates all the way through the intersection without a mark. Usually, though, they get t-boned by an unsuspecting victim or t-bones someone else.
Other times, the negligent driver comes out into traffic after rolling through a stop sign and clips another driver, throwing their car off balance and even causing the victim’s car to flip and roll. Either party – the negligent driver and the victim – can end up with broken wrists and ankles. Because air bags often deploy, they may also sustain broken noses and bloody lips.
Here’s a little-known fact: women who have been hit by air bags often sustain broken sternums and often those injuries aren’t caught at the hospital. Even when the hospital does a chest x-ray to look for torn heart valves, they miss the broken sternum. I’m telling you, clients report that this is one of the most awful, painful injuries that they face; they can’t even sneeze without excruciating pain.
Finally, there is the worst-case scenario: someone drives through a stop sign and hits a pedestrian. That’s why I was so mad at the woman who rolled through the stop sign in my child’s school zone. It was 3:05 p.m. and there were children everywhere. What if she had hit one of them?
Please, don’t run stop signs!
If you have any questions about this article, please contact me at (303) 388-5304.
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