Traffic

Stoptional: The Curious Case of Westchester's Invisible Stop Sign

Behold, the "invisible" stop sign at the Westchester Shopping Center.
Behold, the "invisible" stop sign at the Westchester Shopping Center. Photo by Michael Majchrowicz
No one knows whether it's occult magic or an optical illusion, but one thing is certain: Even if drivers refuse to acknowledge its presence, there is definitely a stop sign in front of the Westchester Shopping Center on Coral Way just east of SW 87th Avenue.   

The otherworldly feat was first documented by the popular social media account Only in Dade (@onlyindade), which shared a video showing a succession of six cars, none of which makes the slightest attempt to stop as it approaches the universally recognized octagonal red stop sign.
On a recent afternoon, a New Times reporter visited this curious stop sign and can confirm that despite Miami's relative proximity to the Bermuda Triangle, it is not actually invisible — though it might as well be.

In the span of a few minutes, we witnessed at least ten vehicles blow through the stop sign without so much as tapping their brakes. These included economy cars and luxury automobiles alike, including a blue Honda Civic followed closely by a black Maserati.

That said, it appears the sign's invisibility mechanism is related to its position: A few yards beyond it is Coral Way, where a traffic light makes it possible to exit the mall and enter the busy intersection. In some sort of Miami drivers' order-of-operations reasoning, it seems that when the traffic light in the middle distance turns green, it trumps the sovereignty of the stop sign. In fact, of the roughly 30 percent of drivers New Times observed coming to a complete stop at the invisible stop sign, most did so when the traffic light ahead was red.

The interior intersection the stop sign itself addresses involves a T-Mobile store parking lot. And fortunately, drivers exiting the T-Mobile parking lot seem to at least halfheartedly comply with their stop sign. They didn't necessarily come to a complete stop, but they tended to slow down as they approached it, which is about as good as anyone can hope for inside a shopping center.

The T-Mobile store has a front window that offers a clear view of the invisible stop sign. Employees inside tell New Times that they watch cars blow through the sign day after day. (They asked that New Times withhold their names, explaining that staff members aren't allowed to talk to reporters during their shift.)

"It's crazy," a female employee says. "Nobody ever stops there. People have crashed!"

"That's Miami culture," a fellow worker chimes in, shaking her head.

Because this is Miami, Instagram users have taken to the comments on the Only in Dade Instagram post debating the legality and necessity of stopping at a stop sign.

For whoever needs to hear this: Florida law (Chapter 316, title 123) states "every driver of a vehicle approaching a stop intersection indicated by a stop sign shall stop at a clearly marked stop line." If there is a traffic light positioned near a stop sign, both need to be observed. Running a stop sign can put three points on your driving record, and lead to a $50 to $200 ticket (fines might be doubled in school and construction zones). There is some debate as to whether stop signs on private property, including shopping malls, are enforceable.

Many Only in Dade commenters don't seem to care.

"There's a light at that same sign and if you don't roll through the stop no one would ever get out of the shopping center," one observed.

"Stoptional!" wrote another.

"What stop sign?" reads yet another comment. "We in Miami."
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Michael Majchrowicz is a former staff writer at Miami New Times. He studied journalism at Indiana University and has reported for PolitiFact, The New York Times, Washington Post, the Post and Courier, and Tampa Bay Times.