Traffic Signs FAQs
Why won't you install stop signs on our street to slow down traffic?
Why are there not stop signs at all intersections?
Why can't we have a 4-way stop to reduce accidents?
Why won't you install children at play signs in our neighborhood to slow down drivers?
What is the difference between the white and yellow speed signs?
Why won't you install deaf child or blind child warning signs along our street?
Where should a stop bar (line) and stop sign be placed at an intersection?
Stop signs installed in the wrong places for the wrong purposes almost always create more problems than they solve. At the right place and under the right conditions, a stop sign tells the motorists and the pedestrians who has the right of way. Federal rules and regulation - The Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) – have established the standards used to determine when a stop sign should be used. These nationally recognized standards, or 'Warrants,' take into consideration, among other things, traffic speeds and volumes; sight distance, and the frequency of traffic gaps, which will allow safe motorist entry or pedestrian crossings.
One common misuse of stop signs is to arbitrarily interrupt traffic, either by causing it to stop or by causing such an inconvenience that motorists are forced to take other routes. Studies in many parts of the country show that there is a high incidence of intentional violations where stop signs are installed as nuisances or speed breakers. These studies also showed that while speeds were sometimes reduced in the vicinity of the stop signs, the speeds between the intersections with stop signs were actually higher than they were before the stop signs were installed.
The best way to keep motorist compliance high at stop signs, and to avoid the liability associated with the incorrect installation of stop signs, is to use the nationally accepted standards to determine when stop signs are to be installed.
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A stop sign is one of our most valuable and effective control devices when used at the right place and under the right conditions. It is intended to help drivers and pedestrians at an intersection decide who has the right-of-way.
One common misuse of stop signs is to arbitrarily interrupt through traffic, either by causing it to stop, or by causing such an inconvenience as to force the traffic to use other routes. Where stop signs are installed as 'nuisances' or 'speed breakers,' there is high incidence of intentional violation. In those locations where vehicles do stop, the speed reduction is effective only in the immediate vicinity of the stop sign, and frequently speeds are actually higher between intersections. For these reasons, it should not be used as a speed control device.
A school crossing may look dangerous for children to use, causing parents to demand a stop sign to halt traffic. Now a vehicle, which had been a problem for 3 seconds while approaching and passing the intersection, becomes a problem for much longer period. A situation of indecision is created as to when to cross as a pedestrian or when to start as a motorist. Normal gaps in traffic through which crossings could be made safely no longer exist. An intersection that previously was not busy now looks like a major intersection. It really isn't; is just looks like it. It doesn't even look safer and it usually isn't.
Most drivers are reasonable and prudent with no intention of maliciously violating traffic regulations; however, when an unreasonable restriction is imposed, it may result in flagrant violations. In such cases, the stop sign can create a false sense of security in a pedestrian and an attitude of contempt in a motorist. These two attitudes can and often do conflict with tragic results.
Well-developed, nationally recognized guidelines help to indicate when such controls become necessary. These guidelines taken into consideration, among other things the probability of vehicles arriving at an intersection at the same time, the length of time traffic must wait to enter, and the availability of safe crossing opportunities.
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Many people believe that installing stop signs on all approaches to an intersection will result in fewer accidents. This is not always the case. Although the accident severity may be lessened, drivers are penalized by the additional delay and higher vehicle operating costs (fuel, brakes, etc.). There is no real evidence to indicate that stop signs decrease the speed of traffic. Impatient drivers view the additional delay caused by unwarranted stop signs as 'lost time' to be made up by driving at higher speeds between stop signs. Unwarranted stop signs breed disrespect by motorists who tend to ignore them or slow down without stopping. This can sometimes lead to tragic consequences.
State law requires the installation of all traffic control devices, including stop signs, to meet state standards adopted by the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT). Florida Statues, Section 316.0745, state: 'The Department of Transportation shall adopt a uniform system of traffic control devices for use on the streets and highways of the state.' The Statutes also state: 'All official traffic control signals or official traffic control devices purchased and installed in this State by any public body or official shall conform with the manual and specifications published by the Department of Transportation …'
The Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) published by the U.S. Department of Transportation is the national standard for Traffic Control Devices. The FDOT has adopted the MUTCD as the state standard.
The installation of a multiway stop condition must first meet the warrants as set forth in the MUTCD. Any of the following conditions may warrant a stop sign installation (Sec. 28-4):
Where traffic signals are warranted and urgently needed, the multiway stop is an interim measure that can be installed quickly to control traffic while arrangements are being made for the signal installations. An accident problem is indicated by five or more reported accidents of a type susceptible to correction by a multiway stop installation in a 12-month period. Such accidents include right and left-turn collisions as well as right-angle collisions. Minimum traffic volumes: The major street vehicular volume entering the intersection from all approaches must average at least 300 vehicles per hour for any eight hours of an average day, and the combined vehicular and pedestrian volume from the minor street or highway must average at least 200 units per hour for the same eight hours, with an average delay to minor street vehicular traffic of at least 30 seconds per vehicle during the maximum hours, but when the 85-percentile approach speed of the major street traffic exceeds 40 miles per hour, the minimum vehicular volume warrant is 70 percent of the above requirements.
Stop signs should not be viewed as a cure-all for solving all safety problems but, when properly located, can be useful traffic control devices to enhance safety for all roadway users.
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At first consideration, it might seem that this sign would provide protection for youngsters playing in a neighborhood. It does not. In fact federal standards (the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices) strongly discourages the use of children at play signs.
Studies made in cities where such signs were widely posted in residential areas show no evidence of reduced pedestrian collisions, vehicle speeds, or legal liability. In fact, many types of signs which were installed to warn of normal conditions in residential areas failed to achieve the desired safety benefits. Further, if such signs were installed, this could lead parents to believe that their children have an added degree of safety protection – which the signs do not and can not provide – and this would be a great disservice to both motorists and parents alike.
Obviously, children should not be encouraged to play in the street. The children at play sign is a direct and open suggestion that it is acceptable to do so.
Specific warning signs for schools, playgrounds, parks and other recreational facilities are installed where clearly justified.
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Speed limit signs with a black message on a white background are regulatory signs; while speed advisory signs with a black message on a yellow background are warning signs.
Regulatory signs are used to impose legal restrictions applicable to particular locations.
Warning signs are used to call attention to hazardous conditions, actual or potential, which otherwise would not be readily apparent, (i.e. advisory speed signs around a curve). The established advisory speed at a curve is based on the safe and comfortable speed for the driver.
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The city is reluctant to install deaf child or blind child warning signs for the following reasons:
A deaf child or blind child sign does not describe to the motorist where the child might be. Most streets within a residential neighborhood have children who react in the same way, and each driver must be aware of all children within a residential neighborhood.
Special signs such as deaf child or blind child provide both children and parents with a false sense of security, and a feeling that these children are safe when playing on or near a street, when playing in the street is obviously an unsafe practice at any time.
Many attempts to attract the driver's attention through the use of unique and unusual signs have been made. Some examples include children at play, domestic animal crossings, and some odd-value advisory safe speed signs. Usually these unique signs are installed as a result of emotional and political pressure.
Unfortunately, the novelty effect soon wears off, the signs become just another part of the landscape, and the signs no longer attract the attention of motorists who regularly pass by them. Their use is discouraged because of both the lack of proven effectiveness and undesirable liability issues. In fact federal standards (the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices) strongly discourages the use of such non-uniform signs.
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In Florida, as in most states, the standard for signs, signals and pavement markings is the 'Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices' (MUTCD). This publication by the U.S. Department of Transportation serves as the standard for the installation of all traffic control devices.
The MUTCD indicates that a stop bar (line) is a solid white line, normally 12 to 24 inches wide, extending across all approach lanes to a STOP sign or traffic signal. A stop bar should be placed parallel to the centerline of the intersecting street. A stop bar should be used in both rural and urban areas where it is important to indicate the point, behind which vehicles are required to stop, in compliance with a stop sign, traffic signal, officer's direction, or other legal requirement.
A stop bar, when used, should ordinarily be placed 4 feet in advance of and parallel to the nearest crosswalk line. In the absence of a marked crosswalk, the stop bar should be placed at the desired stopping point and in no case more than 30 feet or less than 4 feet from the nearest edge of the intersecting roadway.
When a stop bar is used in conjunction with a stop sign, it should be placed in line with the stop sign. However, if the stop sign cannot be located exactly where vehicles are expected to stop, the stop bar should be placed at the desired stopping point.
In general, a stop sign should be located to optimize nighttime visibility and minimize mud splatter. In addition, a stop sign should be located so that it is not obscured by other signs or hidden from view by roadside objects and vegetation.
In order to provide adequate lateral clearance for the motorists who may leave the roadway in rural areas and strike the sign support, a stop sign should be located at least 6 feet from the edge of the shoulder or, if there is no shoulder, 12 feet, with a maximum of 14 feet from the edge of the traveled way. The height to the bottom of the stop sign in rural areas should not be less than 5 feet or more than 8 feet above the edge of the roadway.
In urban areas a lesser lateral clearance may be used where necessary. Although 2 feet is recommended as a working minimum, a clearance of 1 foot from the curb face is permissible where sidewalk width is limited or where existing poles are close to the curb. The height to the bottom of a stop sign in urban areas should not be less that 7 feet or more than 8 feet above the top of the curb.
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