Shadow the Brake, They Might Not Stop

stop signOne evening while patrolling in an unmarked police car I approached a cross street that was controlled by stop signs. I could see a car approaching from my right going fast enough that I was concerned that the driver did not intend to stop. I shadowed my brake pedal and when the other vehicle was at a 45 degree angle making a right turn I stomped and stopped. So did he. We sat and looked at each other for a moment and when it was clear that he wasn’t going to go, I waved him forward.

I’m sure that you are anticipating why I wanted to have this driver in front of me. Yes, I turned on my emergency equipment and pulled him over to issue a traffic ticket for disobeying the stop sign. The driver was not happy with the outcome and said so. He had come to a complete stop, why was I bothering him by writing the ticket? I explained that it was not only important to stop for stop signs, it was also important how and where you stopped.

The driver must not have believed me because I received a notice for traffic court. He was disputing the allegation.

At the trial, I explained the circumstances to the justice. This driver had started to encroach on my lane before he stopped and I stopped because I was concerned that we were going to collide with each other. He was facing a stop sign at the intersection and both a crosswalk and a stop line were marked on the pavement. The stop occurred with the back bumper of this man’s vehicle over the stop line.

The driver was convicted for disobeying the stop sign and fined.

Chances are good that this driver only intended to stop for the sign if he needed to. The speed at which he approached the intersection was much faster than most drivers who come to a proper stop. Scanning both sides of the intersection as you approach allows you to gauge what other traffic might do before you enter the intersection.

Shadowing the brake when you are concerned allows you to stop more quickly if your suspicions are confirmed. By shadowing the brake I mean taking your foot off of the accelerator and hovering it over the brake pedal without touching it. If you need to brake in a hurry, you are almost there already. If not, move your foot back to the accelerator and continue on.

The stop sign only tells you what you need to do when you face one. It is the markings, or lack of them, on the road that tell you where you must stop. If there is a marked stop line, then you must stop before you cross it. If there is a marked crosswalk and no stop line, you stop before entering the crosswalk. If there are no markings present, you stop before you encroach on the lane used by cross traffic.

Now that you’ve stopped, what if you can’t see properly? Your next step is to carefully move ahead to where you can see sufficiently well and stop again. Proceed when it is safe to do so. I have been advised by ICBC driving examiners that the secondary stop is not necessary if no cross traffic is present. However, if you are taking a road test, it would be wise to discuss this with your examiner before you start the exam.


Road Tests - Is a second stop necessary?

With regard to the last paragraph, I think it's important to realize that the expectation of a Driver Examiner is that the Applicant will drive normally.  Legally.  Logically.  No tricks, and no play-acting, it just doesn't work quite frankly.

 I have been advised by ICBC driving examiners that the secondary stop is not necessary if no cross traffic is present. However, if you are taking a road test, it would be wise to discuss this with your examiner before you start the exam.

Think of it this way: if the driver arrives at a 2-Way Stop, and there are parked cars on the cross-street that limit the view in each direction, then the logical, legal, rational thing to do is to gradually move forward, scanning in both directions (as well as ahead) until you can see well enough to continue.  However, if the driver just says a quick prayer and guns it from the stop sign then this will scare the crap out of the DE and failure is highly likely.

Conversely, if the driver has arrived at a 2-Way Stop where there is a clear and unobstructed view for a couple of blocks in all directions, yet moves carefully forward and then deliberately stops again - for absolutely no good reason except maybe some idiot instructor told them to do this on their Road Test - then the DE is not going to be impressed; the expectation is that the Applicant will demonstrate both good observation and judgment of situations, and stopping needlessly isn't going to convince anybody that the Applicant actually possesses these skills; too much irrational behaviour, stopping needlessly, etc, means that failure is also highly likely.

As it says in the 'Learn to Drive Smart' guide:

Keep in mind that the driver examiner is not there to teach you or coach you through the road test. They are there to evaluate your driving against criteria based on safe driving practices and the rules of the road.

So really, trying to discuss each and every aspect of the pending Road Test with the DE beforehand is out of the question; all they're expecting is driving that is normal, legal, rational, logical.  And every DE conducts Road Tests to the same criteria, it's all proscribed.

There's a similar sort of judgment call when it comes to turning right on a red light.  Applicants will often ask their Driving Instructor or Co-Pilot whether they should do this during a Road Test.  Same thing applies; this is a legal maneuver in BC given the right circumstances, so if it can clearly be done safely (and to my mind, this means that the Applicant clearly knows what colour traffic light and pedestrian signal is facing every road user at the intersection, as well as what's going to happen next) then heck, why not make the turn?  Yet so often I've seen an Applicant stopped on a red light, positioned in the right lane with the signal blinking; and then sitting there, in an empty landscape, refusing to move until the light turns green (which is really dumb if the only traffic sensor is in the adjacent lane that goes straight, incidentally).

Observation.  Judgment.  These are the qualities that the successful Applicant will possess, and demonstrate, during their driving test.

Submitted by E-Mail

This has always been a sore point for me : the "not touching the brake" part when covering.

When I started my driving school, one of the first things I did was build a "reaction meter", and I had every student, and some of their parents, give it a go. By the time I retired, I had a beautiful bell curve graph. Some people are very quick, some are very slow, and as I explained to my students, you don't want a very fast one ahead of you, and a very slow one behind you in tight traffic.

Stopping distance (as you know) is the sum of perception, reaction ( moving to brake), and  vehicle stopping distance. By "covering without touching", you  eliminate most of your reaction time, but not for the guy following behind you, (usually too close to begin with).

I advised my student to give it a quick tap, to flash the lights and alert the driver behind, that you may be thinking of braking.

Right or wrong : Better safe then crumpled.

Covering the brake

In addition to Jims comments on covering the brake .I have driven class a motor homes for many years and i am sure any one else that has will always cover ther brake in city limits-- and many times on the freeway if traffic congestion is evedent.I bring this up to pre advise any new motor home or expected motor home owners the importance of this practise .Many drivers following a motor home in the city will try to go around a motor home to beat a yellow light and then cut right in front of a motor home thinking you are holding them up even if you are :flowing with the traffic:.While its also very important for regular vehicle drivers to do the same by covering there brakes a motor home can weigh any where from 16000 to 42000 pounds .If you are watching your mirrors you will see the drivers intentions ahead of time while covering your brake may seem adequate my experiance is to apply my foot right on thebrake pedal ( it also warns driver behind of potential stop)in my motor home as this situation happens one out off 10 times,and it seems especially in rush hours of which most experienced drivers of motor home avoid.I bring this subject up as other than a AIR TICKET endorse ment on your drivers licence there is no other drivers licence requierments on class 5 in BC Canada. to drive these large vehicles so the new motor home driver is on his own resulting in too much trial and error for new owners of motor homes

Submitted by E-Mail

Yes, this is another one of those "Better to be safe than Crunched" situations.

Sometimes you just can't see far enough to pull out safely from behind the stop line, to cross the intersection, or turn and proceed. (Foliage, vehicles, a left ward curve, etc). I told my students to "creep" forward, not move quickly to a point where they can see, then stop for a two way check before proceeding. My rational (after 40+ years of driving experience at that time) was that when you start to move so does the driver behind you. Unfortunately he /she is looking left, not at you, and possibly turning to the right at the same time. If you move quickly forward and stop you will get crunched. If you creep forward (even if turning right), they will most likely keep watching you.

Submitted by E-Mail

Having driven for a living most of my working life, I think I've seen it all, but see a new level of surprise every now and then. One thing I regularly see people stopping at lights past the stop bar, and even on the crosswalk. Sometimes so far they miss the under-pavement sensors, elongating the wait for the green. Occasionally there are those who stop a car-length before the stop bar, again, missing the sensor. I have to say I see this more in BC than any other province I've lived in. Interestingly, when I lived in Edmonton I'd often see people left-turning on a red light. I'd never do this, and get the horn (and finger) from drivers behind me. The belief is that this is allowed, and at that time the excuse was that's how it's done in BC, although I've never seen this here in BC in the 6 years I've been here. I once phoned EPS for clarification on the left-at-red question, and they couldn't even answer, said they didn't know (!). I decided to err on the side of caution, fingers be damned.

Left Turn on Red

It is possible in certain circumstances only.

Left Turn on Red article


foot on brake

Every driver makes mistakes.One or two mistakes are easily forgiven -people who make mistakes daily are a hazard on our roads.The lady who received 14 distracted tickets was a hazard and had no concern about the impact of her driving bad habits. Many follow the rules of the road but too many do not.

How to manage this is the issue.Is there a realationship between speeding drivers, impaired and distracted drivers? Likely- ICBC will know this from stats.

It could be a simple as monitoring speed. Speed cameras , drones -technology. ICBC needs  to modernize  to save lives.



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