Monday, October 8, 2007

Stop! In the Name of the Line!

In Pittsburgh drivers know what the stop line is for at an intersection. Many narrow city streets meet at tight intersections where buses and trucks need to take wide turns. Vehicles that stop beyond the stop line block part of the intersection and can cause gridlock while a bus making a left turn waits for the stop line scofflaw to back up behind the line. This can take a while if several cars behind the scofflaw need to back up as well. I rarely saw this happen in the Steel City because drivers knew the importance of the line, possibly from past embarrassment.

Away from Pittsburgh, not so much respect for the stop line. Several times I was almost hit head-on at an intersection near my house in North Carolina when I was turning left and a scofflaw drove 10 feet past the left lane stop line. Here in Springfield I'm frequently blocked from making a right on red when a monster SUV in the left turn lane goes past the stop line and blocks my view of approaching traffic.

Don't they teach this in driver's ed? Are there no questions about it on state drivers' tests? Is the stop line an affectation put in place by some designer from Extreme Makeover: Intersection Edition?

A recent article in the Raleigh News and Observer got me thinking about this and inspired this ode to the stop line scofflaw.

Stop Line Scofflaw

At night when you roll a car length past
where the stop line sensor cannot sense
the stop line scofflaw’s stranded car
and the green light dances all the way round,
do-si-dos with every behind-the-line van
while there you sit in your stop line jail
and curse the moon in your stop line daze,
may you do hard time for your stop line crimes
before a stop line Samaritan rolls in behind
and sets you free from your stop line bind.



Elrond Hubbard said...

Now, what about that sensor business? Is it true, or just an urban legend, about sensors in the road? I can never tell if there's a sensor or not. It's like my grades in college. They seemed arbitrarily assigned, with little regard for my "presence."

Glenn Cassidy said...

Not all intersections have sensors, but many around Durham and I think almost all in Chapel Hill/Carrboro do. They are put in after paving, so you can see the cuts in the pavement where the loops were installed. A lot of the intersections are timed during the day (possibly with different cycles for different times of day) and then they are actuated at night. When actuated, the busier road has green all the time except when the cross street's sensor is tripped by a vehicle. There's an alternating current in the loop and the presence of a big hunk of metal above it affects the magnetic field induced by the current, and that tells the light to change.