Four-Way Stop Signs

Do more stops make the roads safer?

   In a letter to the Star last week, a writer made the observation that the Bluff Road, Amagansett, intersection with Atlantic Avenue was unacceptably dangerous, and he made a suggestion that the Town of East Hampton install four-way stop signs there. The letter was one of many we have received about traffic this summer, in keeping with the general sense that there are too many vehicles on the roads and several horrific accidents.
    The town has put in several new stop signs lately without ill effect, notably where Abraham’s Path and Accabonac Road meet near the Springs-Amagansett-East Hampton border. But do more stops make the roads safer? The answer is not as clear-cut as you might think.
    One of East Hampton Town’s former highway superintendents, Chris Russo, was said to have generally opposed four-way stop signs. His successors, Scott King and Stephen Lynch, have not exactly been quick to seek more, and it appears they have shown justifiable restraint.
    One of the reasons cited in highway-design literature to go slow, so to speak, on four-way-stop intersections is that they do not necessarily improve conditions — either for pedestrians or drivers. The reasons vary, but include a misplaced or exaggerated sense of safety for people crossing such intersections on foot as well as heightened congestion and driver confusion. Indeed, the Internet is filled with how-tos about who goes first when drivers encounter four-way stops.
    This is not to argue that the Bluff Road-Atlantic Avenue intersection or other problem spots in town should not be improved. However, since stop signs are not always the best cure for traffic ills, a detailed study must be required before any new one is contemplated.