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Catch-all driving statute perfect for parking lots

I see many stop signs and speed signs on posts and painted on lanes in area shopping centers. Do drivers have to follow those signs? Is it possible they are guidelines, not legal requirements, and a driver wouldn't be penalized unless he/she causes an accident? Can a driver get a ticket for not stopping or for speeding even if there are no accidents?

— Sally K.

Truth is, Sally, these really do boil down to guidelines as far as enforcement protocols go.

About 20 or so laws can be enforced in parking lots, legally known as "premises open to the public," and they don't include speeding or stop signs. They do include all the major driving crimes, such as DUII and hit and run, but also included is the nice catch-all statute of careless driving.

So if you were to speed or run a stop sign in a parking lot, even if you didn't cause an accident, you still could get cited for careless driving. Careless driving doesn't have to involve an accident, only that the driving endangers or would be likely to endanger persons or property.

Of course, this is a subjective judgment by the observing officer, so he or she have to justify why a citation was warranted. So I don't recommend people disregard the "guidelines," but rather drive as if they could be getting a citation if they didn't.

Dace Cochran, a patrol sergeant with the Jackson County Sheriff's Department, writes a regular Q&A column on police issues for the Mail Tribune. Have a question for him? Write to Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501, or e-mail cochradc@jacksoncounty.org.