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‘Stop’ – In the Name of the Law!

The stop sign and the stop line, when and where to stop

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If you drive on nearly any road in Minnesota, at some point you will encounter that rude, red octagon-shaped symbol carefully designed to halt your progress and interrupt your journey - the stop sign.

Of course, we all know what to do when we see the sign – we stop! The Minnesota Driver’s Manual informs us to:

Come to a complete stop. Remain stopped until pedestrians and vehicles with the right of way have cleared the intersection. Then proceed with caution.

What the manual doesn’t say is where a driver must stop in proximity to a stop sign before entering an intersection. Minnesota Statute section 169.30(b) states:

Every driver of a vehicle shall stop at a stop sign or at a clearly marked stop line before entering the intersection…

In the past, at least one Minnesota appellate court held that the sign requires a driver to stop at the intersection – not necessary at or before a stop sign – because the purpose of the sign is to promote safety at intersections both for pedestrians and between oncoming and entering traffic on a roadway.

However, in a recent case, the Minnesota Supreme Court interpreted the term “at” a stop sign or stop line – although not specifically defined by the legislature – to mean before and not beyond the stop sign or stop line. But what if the vantage point where the vehicle stops does not enable a driver to safely determine whether it is safe to enter the intersection? What then?

Sight lines at intersections are often blocked by obstructions (e.g. curved roads, buildings, other vehicles, etc.). Therefore, stopping at (before) a designated stop sign/stop line alone may not be sufficient under the law for a driver to safely proceed into the intersection.

Accordingly, in addition to the stop sign requirements of Minnesota Statute sec. 169.30, Minnesota Statute sec. 169.20, subd. 3(a) requires drivers to stop at (before) the entrance of a through highway before proceeding through the intersection.

This means that under Minnesota traffic law, drivers who make a complete stop at (before) the stop sign or stop line may be required to stop a second time before entering the intersection in order to assess potential hazards caused by cross and oncoming traffic.

So, similar to the carpenter’s old proverb to ‘measure twice and cut once,’ Minnesota law mandates drivers to ‘stop twice’ before entering an intersection where appropriate.

If you find yourself facing DWI or OWI charges as a result of a stop sign or other traffic violation and need to explore your options for getting your driving privileges restored, our seasoned lawyers can help. Attorneys are available 24-7 — call us at 612-334-3342.

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