We’ve all seen other drivers do it. And perhaps we’re guilty ourselves: The motorists who come to a stop sign or traffic signal that is red, but don’t make a complete stop, especially when turning.
The maneuver is so common that it even has several names. Some call it the “no cop, no stop” move. In other places it’s known as the “St. Louis stop” or the “California roll.”
The Minnesota Department of Transportation has a name for it, too: dangerous.
That’s why the agency is spending $500,000 to festoon more than 1,000 stop signs with reflective red metal strips and place fluorescent yellow tape on more than 100 traffic signals primarily at rural intersections identified as high risk. The idea is to make them stand out and in turn reduce the number of crashes that result in serious injuries or deaths, said MnDOT traffic safety engineer Derek Leuer.
From 2008 to 2012, the state recorded 533 crashes that resulted in at least one person getting seriously hurt or killed at rural intersections outfitted with traffic control devices. More than 40 percent of the wrecks occurred because one or more of the drivers involved failed to obey a stop sign or light. In some cases, one of the offending drivers either rolled through an intersection and pulled in front of an oncoming vehicle or simply blew the stop sign or ran the red light altogether. In others, drivers may have been distracted or were not attentive because they had not seen a stop sign for miles.
“We want to catch people’s attention,” Leuer said. “The project aims to reduce fatal and serious injury crashes in the state by making the stop signs more visible to motorists.”
Over the summer, crews will affix the red reflective strips to posts below the stop signs so as not to obscure the sign itself. At traffic lights, the bright yellow tape will be placed around the rectangular black plate surrounding the green, yellow and red bulbs. The tape, Leuer says, will make the signals seem bigger and make them pop at night and when there is low visibility, such as when it is foggy.
One intersection in the metro area that will get the stoplight treatment is at Hwy. 36 and Lake Elmo Avenue in Lake Elmo. That is where a semitrailer truck driver rear-ended a motorist who was stopped at a traffic signal in February, killing the driver. The yellow tape also will be put up around traffic lights on Hwy. 12 at Baker Road in Maple Plain and Hwy. 61 at Lower Afton Road in St. Paul.
MnDOT identified the troublesome intersections based on traffic volumes both on the state highways and the county or city road crossing them. Other factors included corners that have commercial development and intersections that are not perpendicular or are on or near curves that could obscure sight lines, all factors that can increase the risk of a crash, Leuer said.
MnDOT also took into account speed limits, the number of lanes that are crossed and the distance motorists on nonstate highways would have traveled since the last traffic control device.
MnDOT saw that other states had tried the measures and that they fit within the parameters outlined in the Minnesota Manual of Traffic Control Devices, which sets standards for devices that regulate, warn and guide road users.
Calling the treatments a “high benefit and low cost solution to help drivers,” MnDOT will use $500,000 included in the 2017 bonding bill to cover the costs, Leuer said.
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