March 4, 2004 - California Stopping

California is known throughout the kingdom as the state that brought us right-on-red. Back in the old days before everyone and their granny lived in our golden state, the ability to make a right turn on a red light (after a full stop) was one of the few things people publicly acknowledged as better in the land of “fruits and nuts”. It turned out that the left coast was right. Not to be left behind, the other 49 states now say that it is right to go right-on-red.

Another popular, but illegal, California driving habit is the legendary California Stop, the act of slowing down but not fully stopping at a stop sign. The dedicated staff of edhat.com wanted to see how prevalent this behavior was in our fair city.  Maybe in LA, we thought, where rushing is a way of life … but in Santa Barbara?

Yesterday, the dedicated staff parked our car at two ordinary intersections, San Roque & Calle Rosales and Santa Barbara & Valerio. It was our hunch that the main reason people stopped fully was to avoid getting tickets.  So, we brought food to make it look like we had a reason to sit in our parked car.   Last Monday we learned that at In-N-Out, many people “Eat-N-Da-Ka”.

The DMV manual says cars must come to a “full stop”, interpreted by most as being achieved when the wheels stop moving.  After watching 300 cars approach stop signs yesterday, the dedicated staff became expert stopologists. Our scientific analysis determined there to be 3 distinct stages that occur during a stop at a stop sign:  braking, unbraking, and accelerating. For a full stop to occur, unbraking cannot be commenced until the vehicle has come to rest.  Be aware, some backward motion will occur when the shocks release the momentum they absorbed at the moment the tires ceased to rotate and the car body continued forward.

If unbraking occurs before the car comes to rest, the car will continue to lurch forward until the accelerator is activated.  Some natural delay occurs as the right foot moves between pedals.  However, in some instances, drivers purposefully postpone acceleration until they have fully ascertained that it is safe to move forward.  In fact, the time between braking and accelerating is when most drivers determine whether or not to yield the right-of-way to another vehicle.   In other words, they are already ‘California Stopping’ before any driving decision has been made.  Once accelerating has been commenced, the entire stopping process is terminated.

If it so happens that a police officer is waiting out of sight, California Stoppers will brake, unbrake, lurch, and then brake again when they see the officer.

In a sample of 300 cars, the dedicated staff only saw 50 full stops (16.67%).    The subscriber average was high at 42%, leaving us to wonder if in fact some drivers think they are fully stopping when in fact they are not.  CAN8VE got the closest with a guess of 17%. We understand that right-on-red is legal in Canada, too.

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