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How about a new traffic sign?

| July 31, 2022 1:00 AM

It’s a small change, really, but it could prompt a healthy shift in social perspectives. It’s about the signs we place at four-way stop intersections.

A stop sign is a crude and unimaginative command. Indeed, if you literally obey it, you will remain at the intersection until you die of starvation!

What’s really happening here is that drivers are thoughtfully reacting to each other. So let’s incorporate this spirit of cooperation in the sign. Have it say, “take your turn.”

This wording would help drivers understand more clearly how to act. To be able to take your turn, you have to know who got to the intersection first. The answer will be confusing if cars approach the intersection by creeping toward it. Instead, each car needs to come to a clear stop, giving a slight, visible jerk. Then, it will be clear to everyone who got there first, and whose turn it is.

The traffic signs we have inherited from olden times seem to assume a stupid humanity with no thoughtfulness or consideration for others, cavemen who have to be bluntly ordered with stern commands. Maybe drivers were more self-centered in earlier times, but my impression is that they are remarkably thoughtful and considerate—at least in Bonner County. As both a bicyclist and a pedestrian, I find that even cars that have the right of way are routinely stopping to accommodate me.

Sandpoint drivers are already adjusting thoughtfully to the 4-way stop. By placing a “Stop Take Your Turn” sign, we put in writing the strategy drivers are following—and express the spirit of courtesy that underlies it.

Who knows, maybe this little change in a traffic sign, copied by other municipalities around the country—around the world! —would encourage a healthy new perspective about governance. Instead of viewing people as stupid and selfish, needing forcible control, we encourage traits of generosity and cooperation.

JIM PAYNE

Sandpoint

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