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Why do some drivers stop a car length or more behind the white line at a stop light?

Ken Little
Traffic light

There's no requirement for drivers to stop a certain distance behind the white line at traffic lights.

It’s up to the driver, said Tammy Stewart, N.C. Department of Transportation spokeswoman.

“Driver safety classes teach stopping far enough back from the car in front of you so that you can see where their back tires meet the pavement, but I don’t know of any recommendation or requirement that drivers stop a certain distance from the white line at a stop light,” Stewart said.

User-contributed question by:
Laurie Madsen

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3 Responses to “ Why do some drivers stop a car length or more behind the white line at a stop light?”

  1. On October 28, 2011 at 6:52 am Thurston Cumbee wrote:

    I try to give turning traffic a little break at narrow intersecdtions because you need room if you are the turning vehicle in order to stay on the pavement in many intersections. It’s a judgement call for me.

  2. On October 28, 2011 at 11:44 am John wrote:

    I’ve heard that some lights work on sensors in the road that are placed at various car lengths behind the white line. If 3 or 4 cars are backed up, the sensor might tell the light to change sooner, or give you a green arrow instead of a green light. If only one car was approaching a light, it might save them time to stop farther from hte line to fool it into thinking more cars are waiting.

    Don’t know if there is any validity ot this or not, but I have heard this explanation more than once.

  3. On November 16, 2011 at 1:09 pm Vera Walker wrote:

    If you are at an intersection that has a turning lane that has a large white line that if further back than traffic that is going straight through — the answer is:
    there must be enough room for semi-tractor-trailers to make that huge turn.
    Please remember to stay behind that white line.
    Many of these turns are quite difficult for these trucks.

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