Many police officers have not earned Ph.D.s and it is therefore understandable that they do not understand the purpose of stop signs. There is a difference between the purpose and the effect of stop signs. The effect is to compel people to come to a complete stop behind the white line, if visible, wherever a stop sign, if visible, appears at an intersection.
But the purpose behind that effect is to keep drivers from smashing into other cars, speeding bicycles, joggers or people walking small dogs in the dark. In other words, slow down traffic by forcing it to come to a complete stop every few blocks, thereby discouraging people from driving 50 miles an hour in a 25-mph speed zone.
This is in protest to an obvious police crackdown in some Fort Lauderdale neighborhoods on people who do not come to a complete stop at stop signs that should never be there in the first place. It is particularly noticeable in the Victoria Park section where several sober people with excellent driving records have been stopped for not quite stopping at intersections where the only reason for stop signs is to slow cars down.
Now Victoria Park, and other Fort Lauderdale neighborhoods, have many intersections where the cross streets are offset, meaning they take a little jog as they meet the busier street. The effect is that a driver can’t see what is coming in both directions, so he or she literally has to roll through the intersection. This is especially true at many corners where foliage prevents drivers, notably those is sports cars or other low vehicles, from seeing in both directions until they are partially into the intersection. One of the recent police stops was made because although the driver came to a complete stop, she did not stop behind the white line. That is absurd nitpicking because foliage and parked cars at that intersection prevents drivers from seeing anything on the cross street from behind the white line.
There are other stop signs on streets where the intersection is a “T.” One street ends. In a sane society there would be no stop sign needed because a car can’t go speeding through an intersection where the street ends. It must slow to make a turn. The only purpose of stop signs at such intersections is to slow cars, by making them stop. There are several such situations around Holiday Park. One might argue that the stop signs are justified to protect pedestrians, especially kids, entering and leaving the park, but that would only apply during certain busy hours, such as soccer Saturday mornings.
The explanation for the strict enforcement is obviously traceable to a strong civic association, and Victoria Park has one of the strongest, which protests to the police about speeding cars on residential streets. Thus all the speed bumps in addition to stop signs. Now that’s exactly the point. If reducing speed is the objective, why not use the police time to do exactly that – use radar guns or other technology to crack down on those who flagrantly, and dangerously, roar down 25-mph streets, or go 60 in 35-mph zones, as they do all the time on Las Olas and Broward Boulevard. Do what police now do in school zones, where surveillance is strict and fines severe.
But if the present mode must continue, we should add the word “almost” above STOP, and the police should be guided by observing if a driver is careful and vigilant at intersections, rather than nitpicking if a car slows to a mile or two an hour and only proceeds when the course is clear.