When cars were first invented, drivers used good judgment to avoid accidents. As more cars took to the road, traffic lights became necessary, and eventually stop signs were added and speed limits were set. Modern drivers continue to be confused about this question: How long must you stop at a stop sign?
When approaching a stop sign, it's not enough to slow down. Every year drivers get ticketed because they only slowed down for a quick look left and right but never actually stopped. A driver is expected to come to a full stop at every stop sign. Even if you are the only driver on the road, you are still expected to stop or you risk getting a traffic fine.
Length of time
While there is no time rule as to how long your car must remain stopped, several seconds is a good rule of thumb. This gives you enough time to look to your left, look to your right and look left again before accelerating. When a car is approaching, you are expected to wait until that car has either passed or also comes to a complete stop.
Prepare to stop
Prepare to stop gradually at a stop sign. A sudden stop with screeching tires not only wears out your rubber, but also puts unnecessary stress on your brakes. Performing a gradual stop is also friendlier for the passengers in your car because they won't be thrown forward. By gradually reducing speed and allowing your break lights to engage, you also let other motorists driving behind you know that you are preparing to stop.
If a pedestrian or cyclist is crossing the road or approaching an intersection, stop long enough for the person to reach the other side. Don't honk your horn or make impatient hand movements. As a responsible driver, you are expected to be polite to other drivers and pedestrians.
In case of emergency
In case of an emergency where you have limited time, it's still a good idea to obey stop signs. Ignoring them could lead to an accident, making matters worse. The few seconds it takes to stop might prevent an accident that will only slow you down anyway. Worse, you and any passengers might be hurt, your car will be damaged and if the accident is your fault, you will have liability.
Getting a ticket
Use common sense before you ignore a stop sign, because if you are ticketed, paying the fine means you admit guilt. In most states, you'll receive demerit points on your driving record that raises your insurance premium. Too many points, and you might have to go back to driver's school and take your exam over again. Avoid more problems and abide by the rules.
How long must you stop at a stop sign? Use good judgment. Even if you're alone on the road, making a full stop won't make much difference in your travel time. If you can't afford to lose three seconds of your time, maybe you should have left home a little earlier.