Lately, I find myself getting peeved at intersections, whether on foot, or in the car. Maybe I’ve just never noticed it before moving to Seattle, but my experience here, consistently, is that few drivers or bicyclists recognize or heed the red light or stop sign. I’ve caught myself at least twice in the past week, pointing to the stop sign when I’ve clearly had the right of way, and when I was in the middle of either walking or driving across the street. Both times were at stop signs, and I saw people literally roll through, and in some cases, I see people not even feign stopping. It’s like the signs don’t even exist.
I find myself a little tense when driving near intersections, especially if there’s a light turning yellow in front of me. Twice yesterday, as I saw it turn yellow, well within stopping distance, I slowed to a stop while the person in front of me drove through, not even accelerated, a fully red light. These were two different occasions. I get tense specifically because I’m scared one of these days when I’m dutifully stopping at a traffic light or sign I’m going to be rear-ended, because clearly, I’m not part of the norm.
I think to myself – do they not have driver’s ed here? Are the rules different in Washington? I was taught that you stop at the stop line, and if there is no stop line (which there aren’t in Seattle, I’ve noticed) you stop at the place where the stop sign is, then roll forward to make your turn or wait to get through traffic. Those who do stop never stop at the stop sign, but always near or past the curb, slightly into the intersection.
As a pedestrian, this is what bothers me the most – there is no buffer at many of the side streets for crossing safely. Those who disregard the stop sign have me training myself to not only look both ways before crossing, but to not trust that the stop sign means they will actually stop. I actually had a woman in an SUV look me square in the face with what I hope to be self-conscious horror as she blew through a stop sign and stopped short of hitting me by about 5 ft.
People in Seattle can’t be totally dim as to the rules, with a point in their favor being at 4 way stops, where I will see people minding the rules of dealing with 4 way stops.
Then there’s traffic circles – but perhaps that’s another rant for another day. If only our traffic circles had the handy diagram signs that Chicago’s traffic circles in Rogers Park has.