Stop Means Stop

April 1, 2023
Safety begins with basic traffic laws

I was walking Bob, my border collie-mix. At a four-way intersection, a gray Ford F-150 approached on the street we wanted to cross.

But the truck wasn’t slowing down. 

“Stop,” I said. And Bob, like a good boy, obeyed.

That’s when I saw it: the truck’s driver — a middle-aged man— was staring at his phone.

This adult did not come to a complete stop. He did not look right and notice Bob and me. He did not even look left. He rolled the stop sign without taking his eyes off his phone.

In this issue, we focus on safety, and later this month, we recognize National Work Zone Awareness Week (April 17-21).

Between 2019 and 2020, fatal crashes in work zones increased by 1.4%, and fatal crashes outside work zones increased by 6.6%, according to the Federal Highway Administration.

Fatalities and injuries are preventable. Thanks to organizations like the American Traffic Safety Services Association, the roads and bridges construction industry has made awareness a vital issue. Every year, new safety products and safety training methods are introduced to the industry, as well.

The seriousness in which this industry takes safety is admirable and should be copied by other occupations.

However, this issue begins and ends with the simple fact that American drivers have become reckless.

We have more than four times the number of car crashes of any other nation. And more than 46,000 people die because of this each year, according to the Annual United States Road Crash Statistics.

I have traveled to 18 countries in Europe, Asia, and Africa. I’ve seen rush hour traffic in Saint Petersburg, Russia. I lived in China for two years and took cabs on a regular basis.

Trust me: we are not the worst drivers in the world.

We have the most roads. We have the highest rate of drivers. And, somewhere along the line, we stopped obeying stop signs.

When was the last time you came to a complete stop at a stop sign? Let me guess: there were other cars at the intersection, so you had to stop. But even then, did you really stop? Or did you slow to a crawl and anticipate your turn so you could hurry through?

It’s even worse at traffic lights. No one proceeds with caution on yellow anymore. They gas it. And now, there seems to be an unwritten rule that you can run a red light if you go right as it turns red.

Because the other cars have a delay. And they can wait.

I see people drive like this in residential neighborhoods. Speed bumps and roundabouts help, but they do not solve the issue at its core: American drivers have become lazy when it comes to the basics.

If we are too distracted by phones and too reckless to obey basic traffic laws in neighborhoods where children live, then how can our industry get people to care about work zones?

Work zones won’t be safe from motorists until we convince American drivers to put down their phones and respect stop signs.

If Bob can respect the word “Stop,” then so can the rest of us. R&B