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Do I Really Have to Stop?


I go to the local Ingles Supermarket at least once, if not twice, a day. Recently I noticed that it’s fairly common for folks to run the stop “sign” painted on the pavement in the store parking lot. Which got me to wondering, “Do I really have to stop?” and “Can I get a ticket if I do not?”

I decided some research was in order. And here’s what I found out.

While some states consider that store parking lot private property and exempt from state laws, North Carolina specifically includes the parking area of “[a]ny service station, drive-in theater, supermarket, store, restaurant, or office building …” as a “public vehicular area” subject to our state’s motor vehicle laws.
So my Ingles Supermarket parking lot is a public vehicular area and it is subject to motor vehicle laws. However, the law that deals with stopping, N.C.G.S. 20-158, does not specifically mention public vehicular areas. This is unlike the impaired driving statute, for instance, that does specifically make it unlawful to drink and drive in a public vehicular area (N.C.G.S. 20-138.1(a)). Does the absence of the term “public vehicular area” from this particular statute mean that the stop sign law does not apply to my Ingles parking lot?
Maybe, maybe not. N.C.G.S. 20-158(c)(5), although not using the words “public vehicular area” does require that a driver stop at an appropriately marked stop line before proceeding … at a place other than an intersection. So however unlikely, I could be cited under N.C.G.S. 20-158(c)(5) for failing to stop at a stop line. And yes, I could insist that the stop sign law does not apply to public vehicular areas.

But do I really want to argue that point with a police officer or a judge. I think not. Best to just stop, even though I don’t really have to, and save my cunning legal arguments for the bigger battles.

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