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Do stop signs in Italy and the UK have the same meaning as in the US?

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Jun 26th, 2010, 05:28 PM
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Do stop signs in Italy and the UK have the same meaning as in the US?

A poster in a current thread on Fodor's mentioned that he was surprised a driver on a university property in the US could receive a fine for choosing to roll through a stop sign rather than make a complete stop while on the private road of the university; that in the UK a driver would not be stopped for such a trivial offense.

It reminded me of an observation my husband and I made during our week driving in Italy this May. While traveling around Umbria we were surprised by the number of drivers who would simply roll through a stop sign or disregard it completely even though we were approaching them. Several times we were forced to slow down considerably to allow them to cut in front of us.

It happened often enough that we wondered about the likelihood of a car hitting us from behind because we were still stopping at all the stop signs We noticed it while driving in towns and on country roads that carried a considerable amount of traffic.

I find it hard to believe that stopping for a stop sign is optional in Italy. I don't remember having this happen in other European countries where we've driven. Has anyone had a similar experience in Italy or elsewhere? Deborah
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Jun 26th, 2010, 05:45 PM
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The way the drivers in Italy respond to signs, means that a stop sign, or a red light for that matter, is just a suggestion to stop.
My brother in law said to me that there is no reason to stop if no other auto is around.
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Jun 26th, 2010, 05:55 PM
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The stop sign means exactly the same thing. As in the US many drivers don't comply - or do this fake "rolling stop" thing. If seen by police it can get you a ticket there just like here.

One of the most dangerous things that sloppy drivers do - anywhere.
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Jun 26th, 2010, 08:35 PM
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Maybe because we were in Umbria where there probably are many more stop signs than traffic lights, the disregard for those signs were so obvious to us. Many times we watched cars that never even hesitated at the stop sign as we approached the intersection.

We live between DC and Baltimore so know to drive defensively but in general drivers here do observe the stop signs

nytraveler, we thought the drivers on the autoroutes were very predictable which we liked, fast drivers but everyone stayed to the right unless passing, which is as it should be.

The most dangerous driving we saw was to and from Norcia through the mountain tunnels---several drivers passed within those long poorly lit tunnels, with a single lane each side of the solid line, now THAT was absolutely crazy dangerous!! Deborah
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Jun 26th, 2010, 09:11 PM
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Lived in Europe as a kid and just got back from a trip to Italy so I'll try to add a bit of perspective. The quick response to your question is that a stop sign means stop _period _ and when visiting another country, you are well advised to obey all traffic signs. if you are rear ended by obeying a traffic stop (unlikely) they _will_ prosecute the one who rear-ends you.
That being said, there is a bit of difference in philosphy in Europe over driving licensure and law enforcement. It is true they tend to enforce driving laws less in Europe than here. On the other hand, obtaining and maintaining licensure requries demonstration of a higher skill level that that is required in the states. Here, driving is percieved almost as a right, while in Europe, it is a priveledge to be earned. If you cannot demonstrate ongoing REAL proficiency, you cannot obtain and maintain your license. Ergo, within each particular country, certain driving behaviours become expected and when everyone acts consistently within that behavior, everything is fine, even if it seems they have disregard for some traffic laws, like speed limits or stop signs. Since an American cannot know all the nuances of some of these informal "laws" it is always best to conform to known laws as best as one can . . . . and take the train as much as possible Luckily, I managed to survive a driving trip from Venice through Tuscany to Rome wihtout incident, although I did once have to back a car through a short "pedestrian only" alley to pick up some luggage - praying fervently - including unknown tongues - that the local "carabinieri" were not around. Prayers seemed to ahve worked
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Jun 26th, 2010, 09:38 PM
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I lived in Heidelberg for five years. I know that Germans tend to jump the gun a little when they know the light is about to turn green. Americans are more likely to go through on a yellow light,not a good combination if both happened at the same time.

The German authorities put traffic cameras in two intersections through which many Americans drove on their way to or from work. I was ticketed once when I ran a yellow light and was not all the way through the intersection when the light turned red.

I was also ticketed once very late at night when I parked where I saw many other cars parking. A couple of months later I received a ticket for parking in the wrong place, and the fine was much higher than I would have expected. I was told the higher fine was the result of my not paying the fine when I first got the ticket.

When I went to the police station, I protested, saying that there had been no ticket on the windshield. The policeman told me that since I knew I'd parked in a no parking place, I should have turned myself in. Huh? I never did figure out if there ever really was a ticket put on my windshield. At times there were negative feelings about Americans among the German community.

I recall one of the faculty wives, who was German, but was driving a car with an American forces license plate, yelling at a policeman that he wouldn't be giving her a ticket if she didn't have US Forces plates.

One thing to be wary of is drinking, even just a little, before driving. That will result in the loss of the driver's privilege for a year, even on the first ticket.
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Jun 26th, 2010, 10:54 PM
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I can't comment on the law in Italy (though I've never had to slow down there to avoid drivers popping out across stop signs, and I wonder how the poster knew poppers-out HAD infringed a sign): but in the UK Stop signs, and Stop markings on roads are, in theory, mandatory.

However, police have better things to do with their time than hang around waiting to entrap Stop sign jumpers. I've absolutely never heard of anyone being ticketed for not stopping, unless:
- Not stopping had contributed to an accident (in which case, there'd be a criminal prosecution), or
- Someone had jumped the sign, forced an oncoming driver to take evasive action and there was a policeman around at the time, or
- As part of a highly publicised blitz on a specific area if there'd been public complaints about widespread rolling stops.

I wonder, though, if the poster's confusing two different things here - because I really can't see how it's possible to observe signs facing oncoming traffic in a road at right angles to the one you're travelling on.

Rolling stops at some signs are common in Europe, tolerated as long as they don't affect oncoming traffic and hardly ever create accidents. But unsigned junctions are far, far more common, much of Continental Europe gives priority, in the absence of clear contrary indications, to drivers coming from the right and so it's not at all unusual to find drivers - totally legally - popping out from the right in places foreign drivers might imagine the drivers would wait till traffic had passed.

Did the poster familiarise herself with Italian laws and signing on who's got the right of way? Because the post strongly hints to me of someone blaming Italians for her own poor preparation.
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Jun 26th, 2010, 11:46 PM
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As with everything in Italy it depends in which part you are. The further north you are generally the more respectful they are of traffic signs and the highway code (or whatever the traffic laws are called in the States). In Italy a Stop sign does actually mean stopping although many do roll through if the road is clear (or they think it is!). A red banded triangle pointed downwards means give way.

As always the rules in Naples are only for visitors. Even other Italians are surprised when driving there and every so often there are reports on TV or examples of their disregard for traffic rules. I remember once seeing a report on a one way street which was always being used in both directions. The TV crew were asking the offenders why they used it the wrong way. The answers were hilarious and, being Napolitans, always inventive. The crew even caught a police car going the wrong way! On another occasion the film crew came across an intersection where the traffic lights were not working but traffic was moving across as if nothing had happened. They reported it and discovered that the lights had not worked for 6 months!
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Jun 27th, 2010, 03:46 AM
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In Florence, traffic lights are compulsory. In Rome they are advisory. In Naples they are Christmas decorations.
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Jun 27th, 2010, 03:53 AM
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Bert4545 - nicely put!
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Jun 27th, 2010, 04:16 AM
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Bert4545

Your comment reminds me of an old Italian joke as told by Italians.

Question - What is a 740?

Answers -

Milanese - A tax return! (as it was then)

Roman - A Volvo! (there was a model called the 740)

Sicilian - What? That calibre doesn't exist!
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Jun 27th, 2010, 04:40 AM
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All of what Flanner said, plus the following.

Stop signs are much less common in the U.K., and most junctions have a "Give Way" (= U.S. "Yield") sign. Many junctions, however, have no sign at all, although the lines on the road will usually tell you who has right of way. Don't forget that we have many more junctions which are not at 90 degrees, because our roads are not laid out on a grid.

Where stop signs exist, it is usually because of poor visibility, and you have to come to a virtual stop to see if there are any vehicles on the major road. A dead stop is not expected, and is seen as holding up other traffic.

My observation is that the U.S. is much more concerned about laws and their literal enforcement than is the case in most European countries. This is not just about traffic laws. Most non-Americans of mature years will have a story about being asked for ID before being served a beer or a glass of wine. It seems to us to be a bit of a joke.
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Jun 27th, 2010, 04:52 AM
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chartley

Every time I return to the UK I realise how crazy things have become with supermarkets asking for ID when purchasing alcohol when clearly the purchaser is over the legal age. What gets me is when the problem is not me - I am in my fifties - but because the person working the till is underage! He is the one having to ask permission to complete the sale!
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Jun 27th, 2010, 06:01 AM
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I think the minimum age for selling alcohol in a U.K. supermarket is 18. In my experience the "asking permission" is fairly perfunctory, and consists of waving the item in the direction of an older colleague. Would someone of that age be allowed to sell alcohol in the U.S.?
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Jun 27th, 2010, 06:38 AM
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lack of enforcement has produced many drivers who think anything goes in many places/countries.

If the police start patrolling more and ticketing in PERSON, I assume these driving habits will slowly be rectified for more prudent and safer ones.
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Jun 27th, 2010, 07:03 AM
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Cashiers in the US, at least in Massachusetts where I live, who are not above the legal drinking age of 21 can not ring up alcohol. They will call over an older cashier to ring up that one item.

My observation of drivers in Rome was that lane markings were for advisory purposes only.
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Jun 27th, 2010, 10:58 AM
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flanner, this OP could tell the cars were not going to stop because we were on the main road and the cars were on the cross roads that were supposed to stop---we saw them coming from either the right or left side of the road and most didn't even make an effort. If we could see them they could see us, and it's not like we were driving slow, it was like we weren't even there Deborah
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Jun 27th, 2010, 11:16 AM
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Thanks for the comments and sharing your experiences and insights.

I don't think in the US the police are lurking waiting for small traffic violations but if someone does a violation and it's noticed, the officer can choose to ticket them.

We drove 9 days through Umbria on small roads between towns which had many cross roads from even smaller towns usually controlled by stop signs, that is the reason we were made aware of the driving habits. It became a running joke trying to guess who would stop for the signs and who wouldn't---we figured the ones who did stop were "foreigners" like us Deborah
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Jun 27th, 2010, 12:34 PM
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Hi DA,

>I find it hard to believe that stopping for a stop sign is optional in Italy.<

If you are Italian, all traffic regulations are suggestions.

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Jun 27th, 2010, 12:35 PM
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PS,

When I was at the UofMd we collected over $1M/yr in traffic tickets.

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