I drove my car into a ditch a fwe hours ago. It was only by good fortune there were no injuries. Things could have been much worse. This worries me as I think the intersection itself guarantees people will result in people doing exactly what I did. I'm going to try to write some thoughts on this tonight while everything is fresh.
To summarize what I'm going to say, I will offer two contentions. 1) A standard four-way intersection should not be designed so that traveling in a straight line through it will result driving into a 6+ foot ditch and creating a significant risk of bodily injury. 2) Should such an intersection exist, any signage intended to warn drivers should be placed with extra care to ensure they are abundantly clear and visible. When neither of these are true, I believe an unacceptable risk of accidents is created.
Before I say more, I want to be clear when approaching this intersection, I did see a stop sign. I misinterpreted the intended meaning of the stop sign, and as such, I failed to stop at the intersection. Because I failed to stop at the intersection, my speed was such that I had no opportunity to avoid going into the ditch when I drove in a straight line through the intersection.
To explain how driving in a straight line through an intersection results in driving into a ditch, I've made a diagram to attempt to show the layout of the intersection. As a word of caution, I have not returned to the scene or taken any pictures/measurements so this is only an approximation:
As you can see, this is a four-way intersection in which the roads are perpendicular to one another. However, whereas most four-way intersections have lanes which flow in a continuous pattern, the lanes in one direction do not line up. On one side of the intersection, the lanes are shifted by approximately two thirds the width of a lane. The result is any vehicle traveling in a straight line on one of those lanes through the intersection will find themselves far off the road.
What this diagram does not show is what one will encounter upon going off the road in this fashion. For at least one direction, the answer is a steep ditch, whose depth is at least six feet. This ditch does not have a gradual slope one might drive down, but rather, a rather sharp drop off. It is sharp enough a car could (and at least one car has already) flip end over end upon driving off it.
I believe the design of this intersection creates a significant risk of drivers getting in accidents. This belief is supported by the comments of several responders who showed up to the scene of my accident, who spoke of the relative commonness of people experiencing accidents in the same fashion as I did. One such responder remarked it seemed they had such an accident once a week. (As he was stating a casual impression, I would not expect the actual frequency to be that high.)
Given the risks involved with traveling through this intersection, I believe it is reasonable to expect any signage at the intersection intended to warn drivers to be installed and maintained with greater than usual rigor. The opposite appears to have been true in this case. Here is the same diagram as above, showing the approximate placement of the relevant signage:
Of note, while this is a four-way intersection, there are stop signs only for vehicles traveling in one direction. This means a driver approaching the intersection as I did will only see one stop sign on a corner of their side of the intersection. A stop sign on their left should be parallel to the road they are traveling on, and it should be intended for people traveling crosswise. A stop sign on their right should be perpendicular to the road they are traveling on, and it should be intended for them.
In this case, the stop sign was neither parallel nor perpendicular to any road. Instead, it was at a ~45 degree angle to both roads. In my case, I saw the sign but judged the angle to be facing more toward the crosswise road than my own, and as such, mistakenly thought I was on the road which did not need to stop at this intersection. (I failed to realize the sign being on the right side meant that interpretation was wrong.)
I don't believe these issues absolve me of responsibility for my accident. I am sure I will be kicking myself for the accident for quite some time. However, I cannot understand how an intersection such as this could be considered safe or appropriate. I believe the intersection is unacceptably dangerous. The fact it continues to exist in its current form despite a disturbing number of accidents like mine seems intolerable.
I don't want to make excuses for what happened. I made a mistake in how I interpreted the stop sign I saw. I know this. However, I believe the severity of that mistake is mitigated by the abysmal placement of the sign. Even if that were not true, I believe it is entirely unacceptable for a failure to abide a stop sign to result in the immediate risk of death despite the lack of involvement of any other vehicle.
In simple turms, I don't think one should run the risk of totalling their car and possibly dying simply because they ran a stop sign on a road with no traffic. That consequence seems too extreme.