My mountain cabin is located in a small town which has a two lane state highway running through it, with no stop signs or traffic lights. Normally it’s a pretty quiet road, but on winter weekends it is very busy with motorists passing through on their way to the winter resorts. The winter traffic is often so heavy that it can be difficult to find a break when trying to turn left onto the highway from the side streets or businesses. Not to mention that there is also a significant amount of pedestrian traffic wishing to cross the highway.
About a week ago the state department of transportation just finished a project to add left turn pockets at key intersections on the highway. This will help keep traffic on the highway moving, since through traffic will not have to wait behind a motorist wishing to turn left off the highway onto a side street. But that would also reduce the number of natural gaps in the traffic flow, so something else had to be done to help motorists and pedestrians turning onto or crossing the highway. The DOT’s solution was to add a four way stop at one intersection on the highway. The town council wrote a letter in opposition to that plan, suggesting that a traffic signal would be a better alternative (which I agree). But that idea was ignored, and the four way stop also went in about a week ago as part of the project.
So now I bring you to the events from earlier today. I was driving on the highway headed to the hardware store around 9AM on Labor Day morning. As I slowed to approach the four way stop, there were no other motorists or pedestrians in sight. So I made a “California stop” before turning right towards the post office. The highway patrol car’s lights came on, and he stopped behind me just after I parked in front of the hardware store. (Yes, that’s me parked in front of the highway patrol, out of view of the photo, courtesy of the hardware store webcam.)
Now I don’t deny that I am clearly guilty as charged and will have to pay the fine. Furthermore, I don’t hold anything against the officer, who was doing his job and was absolutely professional during the traffic stop. But I do have to wonder if this strict enforcement is driven by safety concerns or easy money for the starving county coffers. (Furthermore, could the four way stop have been chosen not just because it is cheaper to install than a traffic light, but because it has more “revenue generation” potential?) Nor do I see how summer time enforcement towards locals and “weekenders” will get the message across to our winter visitors. We shall see this winter, but one thing’s for sure – do be sure to come to a complete stop at that intersection!