Are California Stops On The Way Out?

December 31, 2010

Does the term “Rhode Island Roll” mean anything to you? If not, what about “California Stop” as a way to describe a lax commitment to obey stop signs or the required stop prior to proceeding right on a red light?

My recollection is of a very stern motor vehicle staff person requesting a “full and complete stop” during the road test portion of my driver’s license test. He said that “California Stops” were not acceptable.

As this demonstrates the term has been around for a very long time and has made its way into popular usage nationwide. During the gas crisis of the 1970s it was actually promoted as a way to save fuel.

In spite of its history will it be around for long?

The practice may be endangered due to a number of developments. Municipalities are increasingly aiming their red-light cameras at the right turning lane to pick up the plates of drivers who never stop or don’t heed the white limit line that designates the legal stopping point. In addition, the fines being levied are equal to those meant for drivers who run red lights--as much as $440.

There was such flak from drivers on the San Francisco Peninsula, who got stung with the fines, that their assemblyman authored legislation to distinguish “California Stops” from other red-light violations. He proposed to reduce the fines for rolling stops on red from the $440 to about $220.

The bill passed the assembly but was vetoed by Governor Schwarzenegger in spite of support from The Automobile Club of Southern California, which thought that the law had more to do with generating revenue than promoting safety.

So unless you have very deep pockets, you might be well advised to avoid using the “California Stop” unless, of course, you choose to do it in another state.   

[Road Warrior, AAA]

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