It seems fairly innocuous — if there are no cars or pedestrians around, what harm can creeping across a red light or stop street do? A lot. Rolling stops are riskier than you may think. It’s one of the contributing factors to intersection accidents.
Intersections present many hazards — vehicles, pedestrians, and bicyclists are crossing. This makes intersections a dangerous place for all road users. And the statistics concur — more than 50% of car crashes occur at intersections.
Apart from the danger, rolling stops can have serious legal implications should an accident occur. Let’s discuss this common traffic violation and its consequences.
Definition of a Rolling Stop
USLegal.com defines a rolling stop as any time you don't come to a complete stop at an interaction. This means your wheels will still be in motion. Your speedometer will likely register less than 5 mph.
When you fail to come to a complete stop, it's a traffic violation. These violations vary on a state by state basis.
The Risks of a Rolling Stop
If you’ve taken a driver's ed course, you’ve been taught to come to a complete stop at a red light or stop sign. Therefore, you know that rolling through a stop is illegal and dangerous. Yet many drivers do it and ignore the risks, which include:
1. Causing a Car Crash
Drivers with the right of way are not expecting you to come barreling across the intersection, causing an unavoidable crash that could be fatal. That’s why stopping at a red light isn’t an option, it’s a law that must be adhered to for the safety of all motorists.
2. Rear-Ending a Vehicle
Many drivers who rear-end a vehicle do so because they were distracted and unaware that their vehicle was rolling into the back of a car. Others may misjudge their distance to the car in front. Be aware of vehicles in front of you, avoid distractions, and don’t roll across the stop line.
3. Colliding with Pedestrians, Motorbikes, and Bicyclists
Roads are not just for cars. Motorbikes, bicyclists, and pedestrians are also around, especially at intersections. Even in a quiet residential road, a child or pet could suddenly dart out into the road. That’s why you should never risk rolling through a stop, even on a quiet road.
To see the disastrous effects of running red lights, take a look at this video. In some chilling moments, pedestrians narrowly escaped injury or death from a car recklessly running a red light.
Traffic Laws Around Rolling Stops
Every day in the U.S., drivers are cited for running a red light or doing the “California roll”. Stop signs are not to be treated as yield signs. If you run a red light and get caught, you will be ticketed. Red light fines vary from one jurisdiction to another but typically range between $50 and $500. In states with a points demerit system, you’re also likely to acquire points on your driving record.
If you cause an accident that injures or kills someone, the consequences are more severe. You could face criminal charges, a jail sentence, and have your license suspended or revoked.
The law takes rolling stops seriously. Many states have installed red-light cameras to monitor intersections. You’d be hard-pressed to argue against your violation when the proof is on camera. Red light cameras are a successful deterrent to this bad driving habit, having reduced the number of fatalities from rolling stop crashes by 21%.
Be Wary of Other Drivers Rolling Through a Stop
If you’ve ever risked rolling through a stop, you can be sure other drivers do too. When the light turns green, scan the entire intersection before pulling away. Another driver may run a red light and crash into you.
Anticipating other drivers’ behavior is something we teach in our defensive driving course, along with a ton of valuable techniques to prevent accidents. Plus, if you do pick up a ticket for running a red light, taking a defensive driving course can help reduce points on your driving records — a useful benefit.