Installing stop signs not always the answer

Dear Street Smarts, Q: I avoid driving the most convenient route out of my Santa Cruz neighborhood because the intersections at Liberty and Gharkey streets, and Liberty and Santa Cruz streets, have no stop signs. City public works gave an explanation why these and several other intersections in the city have no stop signs but I still cannot understand it. It seems to me, if two cars on intersecting streets are simultaneously approaching the corner, and neither is slowing for a stop sign, then wham! Your thoughts, please! Alexander Gaguine, Santa Cruz A: Perhaps, speed and drivers' sense of entitlement is the problem, not the lack of stop signs. The California Driver Handbook tells drivers to yield at intersections without traffic signs. Also, if two vehicles arrive at the intersection at the same time, the handbook says the driver on the right gets the right-of-way. Now, as far as public works' decision on this matter, the department performs a “'warrant study,' which evaluates reported collisions, traffic bike and pedestrian volumes, cross traffic, site specific issues like sight distance, etc.,” said Chris Schneiter, assistance director. “A number of points are given for each category and if it meets the threshold, a stop sign can be installed following city council approval of a resolution. The department completes warrant studies on a regular basis as requests arise, which means we do study the intersection history and site conditions. Residential streets do not often warrant a stop controlled intersection. ” Research shows that installing stop signs where they are not warranted can actually reduce the safety of the intersection, “as a motorist may not choose to stop if there is no practical reason to do so, such as very light cross traffic,” Schneiter said. “I believe that most people do not want a stop sign at every intersection or more traffic signs that lead to visual blight,” he continued. “So you have the best advice, slow down and yield.” Share the road, indeed. Q: Thanks so much for getting this info. To me, the problem remains that, although Mr. Schneiter says, "Residential streets do not often warrant a stop controlled intersection," almost every intersection in Santa Cruz -- and most in the county and in the state -- is in fact stop controlled. My unscientific guess for the city would be at least 98-percent of intersections are controlled. So I think many motorists assume that if they don't have a stop sign, the cross street has one, and they are free to drive through. Motorists look for signs directed to them; they do not necessarily check to see if there is a sign facing 90 degrees away and directed to cars on another street. Anyway, thanks again. Alexander Gaguine, Santa Cruz A:James Burr, traffic engineer for the city, sent the following list of "uncontrolled" intersections. "I do not have a ratio, but there are enough uncontrolled intersections that roadway users must know how to operate at one," he said. "Here are some intersections without posted traffic control that I could remember and verify easily -- not an exhaustive list.
  • Bradley Drive at Majors and Moore streets;
  • Spring Street at Bradley Drive;
  • Majors Street at Allegro Drive;
  • Iowa at Fridley Drives;
  • Scenic street at Bayona Drive;
  • Overlook at Bayona drives, as well as Overlook at Crestview Terrace;
  • McMillan Drive at Donna Court;
  • Nobel Drive at Northrop, as well as at Seton Place, Segre Place, Seaborg Place, Calvin Place, McMillan Drive;
  • Alta Vista at Mira Vista drives and Alta Vista at Los Altos Court;
  • Arroyo Seco at Arroyo Seco;
  • Roxas street at Trevethan, San Juan and Marnell Avenues;
  • Molley Way at Prospect Heights;
  • Prospect Heights at Camino del Sol;
  • Oxford way at Princeton and Harvard streets;
  • Cypress Avenue at Forbes Street;
  • Idaho at Mountain View avenues;
  • Owen Street at Woods and Plum streets;
  • Woods at Bronson streets;
  • Plum at Sumner streets;
  • Sumner at Clinton streets;
  • Francis Court at Clinton Street;
  • Harbor Drive and Windsor Street;
  • Darwin and Hanover streets.
Meanwhile, Burr also supplied verbage from the California Driver Handbook to remind motorists of how they are to behave at intersections. DMV Driver Handbook: Intersections "An intersection is any place where one line of roadway meets another. Intersections include cross streets, side streets, alleys, freeway entrances, and any other location where vehicles traveling on different highways or roads join each other. "Driving through an intersection is one of the most complex traffic situations motorists encounter. Intersection collisions account for more than 45% of all reported crashes and 21% of fatalities according to the Federal Highway Administration. "At intersections without 'STOP' or 'YIELD' signs, slow down and be ready to stop. Yield to vehicles and bicycles already in the intersection or just entering it. Also, yield to the vehicle or bicycle which arrives first, or to the vehicle or bicycle on your right if it reaches the intersection at the same time as you do. "At 'T' intersections without 'STOP' or 'YIELD' signs, yield to vehicles and/or bicycles on the through road. They have the right-of-way. "When you turn left, give the right-of-way to all vehicles approaching that are close enough to be dangerous. Also, look for motorcyclists, bicyclists, and pedestrians. When you turn right, be sure to check for pedestrians crossing the street and bicyclists coming up behind you on the right. On divided highways, or highways with several lanes, watch for vehicles coming in any lane you cross. Turn either left or right only when it is safe. "When there are 'STOP' signs at all corners, stop first then follow the above rules. "If you have parked off the road or are leaving a parking lot, etc., yield to traffic before entering the road again Safety suggestion: While waiting to turn left keep your wheels pointed straight ahead until it is safe to start your turn. If your wheels are pointed to the left, and a vehicle hits you from behind, you could be pushed into oncoming traffic." Q: At Mission and Bay streets, I observed a Metro Bus making a right turn and it couldn't because cars on Bay were allowed to come up to the cross walk at the intersection. Cars backed up to allow the bus to make the turn. To alleviate this situation, could public works mark the road so that the left turn lane would be back from the crosswalk? Steve Welch, Santa Cruz A: There is no need to change the limit line, said Chris Schneiter, assistant director of public works. The problems is drivers pulling too far forward, thus have to back up or perform some other maneuver when a bus comes along, he said. “Laurel eastbound at Pacific comes to mind as a prime example of a limit line that I sometimes see not being respected,” explained Schneiter. Also, if there was a need for change, Metro would request it, he added.  
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