Stop Sign vs Stop Line – Driver’s Stopping Guide & FAQ’s

stop sign vs stop line
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When I’m driving I like to go, not stop. As a society we maybe don’t really love stop signs, but we seem to have them around here in great ole North America. There are so many questions people have about stop signs when they’re learning how to drive. We are going to dive in there deep right now.

ICBC British Columbia guide for stop signs
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Jump to a section:

Stop Sign vs Stop Line – A True Story That Went To Supreme Court

british columbia stop sign vs stop line
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Here is a real story about a stop sign vs stop line. A Richmond, BC man took his stop-sign ticket to Supreme Court, and won.

The man had stopped at a stop sign, rolled past the stop line – which was some 5 feet away from the sign – and received a ticket.

The police officer was correct in that the man did not follow proper procedure.

But, the judge agreed that the stop sign was confusing. It was located at a great length from the stop line. This was making the situation confusing for many drivers.

While it’s true we are supposed to stop at stop signs, we are also supposed to stop at the white ‘stop line,’ wherever there is one.

So, where are we supposed to stop? At the stop sign, or the stop line, especially when they’re going to be way far apart?

Stop Sign vs Stop Line Rules

British Columbia white stop lines
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Technically speaking, when there is both a line and a sign, you must stop at the stop line, not necessarily right beside the stop sign.

Sometimes the stop sign is at a ‘slightly’ different location than the line, for different reasons.

One reason is that large trucks turning may need more room, so the stop line may be well before the sign in certain industrial areas.

Or, the stop sign may be located before the line due to visibility reasons.

Here are the general guidelines, as per the ICBC Learn to Drive Smart Manual.

Four Way Stops x
Four Way Stops

Let’s go through some typical intersection examples so we can see exactly where to stop for each instance

When There Is A White Stopping Line

If there is a stop line, stop with your front bumper just behind the line.

stop sign vs stop line
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Pedestrians will be able to walk in front of your vehicle.

When There Is a Marked Crosswalk

If there is a crosswalk, but no stop line, stop with the front bumper just behind the crosswalk. Read more details about crosswalks.

marked crosswalk
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Again, any pedestrians will have room to walk in front of your vehicle.

When There Is an Unmarked Crosswalk

If there is an unmarked crosswalk – there is a sidewalk – stop just before where the crosswalk would be. Usually this is pretty obvious.

unmarked crosswalk
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Unmarked crosswalks exist at almost every intersection. Even when there are no lines, this is still a legal place to cross the street for pedestrians.

When There Is an Intersection but No Markings

If there is no stop line, no crosswalk, and no sidewalk, stop just before the front bumper enters the intersection. The front bumper can be in line with the edge of the curb.

uncontrolled intersection
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Stop Sign vs Stop Line: Why Stop Where We Do?

Think about the reasons why we must stop before the line

  • Pedestrian safety
  • Vehicles may be cutting corners
  • Large trucks may be turning
  • Other vehicles may not be able to see you properly if you stop too far away from the line and/or may become confused as to what you’re doing
19 Intersection Examples 4 Way Stops in Burnaby Canada

If Visibility Is a Problem

If, after you stop, you still can’t see properly, then you may inch forward into the intersection if need be. But, you must stop at the line (or proper position) first.

Question On Stopping Twice At The Stop Sign

Question: Daughter failed her N test. Tester failed her because she would come to a full stop at lines at stop signs, then inch out until she could see clear to go.

Didn’t creep out too far as to impede traffic or anything. He told her she shouldn’t have “stopped” twice? Should she stops past the stop line until she can see, or will the new tester tell her that is wrong too? Confused?

Were they all 4-way stops?

Of course it depends on the circumstance and intersection. If you stop at the line and have perfect visibility then you should simply stop and check for pedestrians and traffic, and go when safe.

If you don’t have visibility (blocked due to trees or parked vehicles, for example) then you pretty much have to stop twice more often than not. 

If the entire test was failed for only this behavior then I am guessing it was failed for too many B4 on the scoring sheet which is a “gap.”

This basically means there was a safe opportunity to “go” and the driver did not take it (they were stopping again unnecessarily or being too cautious).

In future, the best thing to do is talk to the examiner after the test if you do not understand something. That way, it is fresh in their mind and if you still disagree, you can ask to speak to the manager and he/she can figure out a better explanation or solution.

But it’s very normal for drivers to “stop twice” because there are so many intersections where you can not see anything traffic-wise from your original stopped position.

The only reason to stop in the initial position (besides you legally have to), is to make sure pedestrians would have room to walk in front of your car before you then inched forward. And, if vehicles in the intersection are turning onto your street, you won’t be in their way.

Where To Stop For Pedestrians At a Stop Sign Intersection

where to stop for pedestrians
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It is good practice to stop well before an intersection when stopping for pedestrians. And yes, every intersection is a legal place for pedestrians to cross the road, unless a sign says otherwise.

One reason is so that a vehicle may be able to move through the intersection without being blocked by you.

Since you are stopping anyway – may as well leave them the opportunity to go.

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Another reason is to protect the pedestrians in the event you are rear-ended. You have an entire vehicle around you; they do not.

Read More About Stop Signs


Stop signs are everywhere and it’s a basic foundational driving skill to be able to know what to do properly. Some intersections are confusing. Just remember that you’re supposed to stop at the stop line, even if the stop sign is positioned a little bit farther than the line.

You will be tested for stop signs on any road test, of course. It’s good to practice them because there are so many different varieties of intersections, and some are simply easier than others. Be sure to check out how to turn corners, turning right on a green light, tips for turning left at a traffic light, epic guide to turning right on a red light, and 4-way stops.


By Carmen

Carmen became a driving instructor at the age of 22 in North Vancouver, Canada and is an experienced writer, blogger, photographer, artist, philosopher, certified day dreamer and generally complicated human.