Clearing The Path For Stop Signs

Do you know where to stop for a stop sign? It might sound like a no-brainer, but through the years while teaching driver improvement courses to fleet drivers and interacting with other road users, AMA instructors have found that one of the most common mistakes a driver will make is not stopping correctly at a stop sign intersection, or other areas where a legal stop is required.

A common myth among many drivers is that you should stop at or behind the stop sign. The problem with this is that stopping in those areas usually means you are blocking the crosswalk, which:

  • Is very unsafe for pedestrians.
  • Blocks the view of other drivers that may also be stopped at the intersection.
  • Puts the front of your vehicle at risk of getting hit from left turning vehicles.

Many Alberta drivers also have a habit of not coming to a complete stop, often called a rolling stop. Some drivers think they had stopped, while others don’t see the need for a full stop. How dangerous can this habit be? You won’t be able to scan the intersection as well as you should, and the consequences can be deadly. Year after year, ‘stop sign violation’ is consistently in the top four improper driver actions that cause casualty collisions in Alberta. According to the 2014 statistics from Alberta Transportation, 22 fatalities and 872 injuries were the result of stop sign violations.

Stop Sign Procedures

A stop sign means that your vehicle must legally come to a full stop. The following is the correct procedure when approaching a stop sign intersection:

  • Stop at the stop line before a marked crosswalk, or where there is no stop line, stop before the marked crosswalk. If there is no stop line or marked crosswalk at the intersection, you must stop within three metres of the intersecting roadway.
  • Once stopped, scan the intersection for pedestrians and other road users.
  • When safe to do so, continue on your way.
  • At four-way stop intersections, also known as “courtesy corners”, all vehicles approaching the intersection are required to come to a complete stop. Safety and courtesy dictate that the vehicle that arrived first, proceeds first. If two vehicles arrive at the same time, courtesy again states that the vehicle on the right be allowed to proceed first.
  • When facing a stop sign and the oncoming traffic also has a stop sign, if you are turning left, you must first yield to oncoming traffic.
  • Keep in mind, you must stop before entering a main road from a service road, lease road, alley, driveway or parking lot.
  • If you see a stop sign at an LRT or railway crossing, you must stop no closer than 5 metres, and no further than 15 metres, from the nearest rail.
  • Commercial vehicles such as school buses or vehicles carrying flammable liquids are required by law to stop at uncontrolled railway crossings. Look well ahead on rural roads and be prepared to stop when you are following a commercial vehicle near a railway crossing.

Ready to take our Quiz? We recommend that you read Stopping Tips For Drivers and Stopping Safely in an Emergency Situation next so you’ll be better prepared to pass the quiz or, you can take the quiz now.


I am a Fleet Safety Operations Manager with 30 years of experience teaching traffic safety across five provinces, and in four countries. Outside of work, I am an avid traveller, a fervent Flames fan, and a Mustang enthusiast.