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Road Signs FAQs 

How do I get a “Children at Play” sign in our neighborhood?

Citizens often demand that the town erect Children at Play signs on their street to reduce the risk of automobile-pedestrian accidents. Officials ask, "What does the MUTCD (Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices) say about Children at Play signs? If we erect a sign on one street, won't we get requests from other neighborhoods in town to do the same? What's the town's liability?”

The short answer is: "Do not erect Children at Play signs." the long answer is a bit more complicated.

First, the Children at Play sign is unclear and unnecessary. It suggests to the driver that, if no such sign is present on another street, children are not playing there, and it is OK to speed or to be less careful. Another driver might interpret the sign to mean that children are playing in the road. "Always? What time of day?”

Second, it gives the parents and children a false sense of security. By relying on the sign, parents might monitor their children less closely and children might interpret the sign to mean it is acceptable to play in the street.

Third, one Children at Play sign leads to a proliferation of signs throughout the town. Since nearly every block has children living on it, there would have to be signs on each one. The effect of too many signs is that they become ineffective. The proliferation of signs breeds disrespect, not only for the specific signs, but for all signs.

Fourth, to erect Children in response to one request usually generates similar request, thereby basing sign placement on political reasons rather that on sound judgment.

Fifth, because they are confusing and do not meet specific criteria for good signing, placing Children at Play signs opens a municipality to tort liability.

Sixth, since all signs need to be maintained to be effective, the proliferation of unnecessary signs place an undue burden on maintenance crews. Purchasing, evecting, and keeping these signs in good order is expensive

For these reasons, The MUTCD discourages the use of Children at Play signs. However, municipalities can and should post signs for school zones, pedestrian crossings, and playgrounds. The MUTCD makes specific reference to these situations. Signing such areas gives clear messages to drivers about the kind of zone they are entering. Children at Play signs, on the other hand, do not meet a specific criterion.

Parts taken from the Vermont LTAP Center's Local Roads News, June 1994

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How are stop signs assigned?

Improper use of stop signs:

Stop signs are one of the most common traffic signs and also one of the most misused. A stop sign is intended to assign driver right-of-way at intersection street locations. Stop signs are commonly misused in an effort to control speed on local streets. Many people believe that forcing motorists to stop at each intersection will decrease overall speed on the road. However, Studies show that stop signs only reduce speed immediately adjacent to the sign. Most drivers accelerate between intersections to make up for the time lost at the stop sign. Engineering studies indicate that the inappropriate installation of extra stop signs may cause additional problems such as more rear-end collisions, a redistribution of traffic onto side streets, and drivers ignoring the inappropriate stop.

Stop sign Warrants:

Stop signs should be used only where warranted because they cause substantial inconvenience to motorists. Motorists are inconvenienced because of lost time and expended fuel. A warrant is a guideline to determine the need for installation of a sign rather than absolute criteria. Their use tempered with professional judgment and local knowledge, will result in effective implementation. For example, knowledge of the local road system will quickly identify problem crash areas that you may improve by proper sign place. Local police officers or other municipal employees can collect data to evaluate the warrants listed below. As outlined in the following warrants, vehicular volume counts, sight distance measurements, and possible vehicle delay estimates are required to properly evaluate the warrants. Additionally a review of intersection geometry, adjacent roadway features and vehicle speeds through the area are necessary to accurately judge the placement of proposed stop signs. Stop sign warrants are outlined in the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD), Section 2B-5, Page 2B-2. (See Section 2B.05, Page 2B-8 of the Millennium Edition of the MUTCD after adoption by the Idaho Transportation Board - in January 2003).

The four (4) warrants are listed in the MUTCD:

 

1. On a minor road at the entrance to an intersection where the application for the normal right-of-way rule creates unnecessary conflicts.

2. On a street or highway entering a through highway.

3. On the minor road at an unsignalized intersection in a signalized area.

4. Where sight distance or the crash record indicates the need for control by stop signs.

Multiway Stop Intersections:

Multiway stop sign intersections can also be an effective method of improving a hazardous location of controlling traffic congestion. Multiway stop warrants are also addressed in Section 2B-6, Page 2B-3. (See Section 2B.07, Pages 2B-10 and 2B-11 of the Millennium Edition of the MUTCD after adoption by the Idaho Transportation Board - in January 2003).

The following are warrants for multiway stop intersections:

 

1. Where the traffic signals are urgently needed, the multiway stop is an interim measure that can be installed to control traffic while arrangements are being made for the signal installation.

2. Where a crash problem is indicated by five (5) or more crashes in a 12 month period of a type susceptible to correction by a multiway stop installation. Such crashes would include right turn and left turn collisions as well as right angle collisions.

3. Minimum traffic volume:

 

a. The total vehicular volume entering the intersection from all approached averages at least 500 vehicles per hour for any 8 hours of an average day and

b. The combined vehicular and pedestrian volume from the minor street or highway averages at least 200 unites per hour for the same 8 hours, with an average delay to minor street vehicular traffic of at least 30 seconds per vehicle during the maximum hour, but

c. When the 85th percentile approach speed of the major street traffic exceeds 40 miles per hour, the minimum vehicular volume is 70 percent of the requirements of clauses (a) and (b).

Unwarranted Sign Location:

By following the appropriate steps prior to installing stop signs, their use and location may reduce crashes and properly regulate traffic through an area. Improper signing and ignoring the warrants creates dangerous conditions for both drivers and responsible municipality.

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What determines speed limits?

Setting speed limits, weather by a state or local government, is not an exact science. Too often it is viewed as a cure-all for a community's traffic problems. Frequently, citizens demand speed changes in order to solve complicated traffic problems.

To find out whether changing speed limits had any significant effect on safety, the Federal Highway Administration sponsored a study to address that issue. In the study, before any changes were made, accidents and speed data were collected in 22 states, at 100 sites.

Then speed limits were lowered at 59 sites, and raised at 41 sites. Included were 63 rural sites, 27 small urban sites, and 15 urban sites. Section length varied from 0.3 miles to 12.6 miles with an average of 1.7 miles. To ensure a fair comparison speed and accident data were collected for 83 sites where speed limits were not altered.

Researchers were notified about sites where speed limits were to be changed by state traffic engineers. Traffic data were collected before and after the speed limits were changed for 24 hour periods.

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