Stop signs are among the oldest methods of controlling traffic at intersections where the normal application of the right-of-way rule is insufficient to ensure safety. These signs continue to be the most valuable and effective method of controlling traffic throughout the City where there are over 1,200 stop signs currently in place. The use of stop signs and other traffic control devices are closely monitored by the City. Stop signs are installed at an intersection only upon the approval of the City Traffic and Parking Commission and the City Council after a careful review has been made of the existing conditions.
The Federal Highway Administration’s Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices dictates the size, shape and color of all traffic control signs. This manual sets guidelines for installing various traffic control signs, thereby creating uniformity from city to city and state to state.
Stop signs assign right of way to vehicles using an intersection. They should only be installed when traffic volumes, speeds, sight distance or intersection geometrics are such that drivers or pedestrians cannot easily obtain or distinguish a safe opportunity to cross an intersection.
Why Doesn’t the City Just Put Up a Stop Sign?
One commonly requested use of stop signs is to slow traffic. Where stop signs are installed to slow traffic, speed reduction is only apparent within 200 to 300 feet of the intersection. Frequently, speeds actually increase between intersections as drivers try to make up lost time. In addition, other problems such as congestion, engine noise, exhaust and different types of accidents may also increase as a result of stop signs.
Stop signs increase driver expectations that crossing traffic will stop, thereby tending to reduce their attentiveness. When stop signs are installed where they are not needed, they are quickly considered a “nuisance” by local residents, many of whom pass through the intersection several times daily. Experience has shown that drivers begin to ignore nuisance signs by “rolling through” or “running” the sign. This can actually lead to a more dangerous situation where through traffic or pedestrians are expecting cross traffic to stop . . . and they don’t.
For these reasons, stop signs should not be used as speed control devices. They should only be installed when a true need is determined.
How Do I Get a Stop Sign?
Stop signs are recommended to the City Council by the Traffic and Parking Commission. This citizen advisory Commission has been established by the City Council to advise the Council on Traffic and Parking issues.
The current informal policies of the Traffic and Parking Commission require that a petition be submitted to the City Traffic Engineer when stop signs are requested. This petition is informal and can be in letter format with the names, addresses and phone numbers of the residents residing one block in each direction of the proposed sign. The main use of the petition is to demonstrate that a majority of the residents have been informed of and support the action requested of the Commission.
Once this petition is received by the Traffic Engineer, a formal traffic study is performed at the intersection. This study gathers the traffic volumes, speeds, sight distances, geometrics and accident history present at the intersection. This information enables the Traffic Engineer to make a safety recommendation to the Traffic and Parking Commission.
The Commission uses the information provided by the Traffic Engineer, information gathered through personal on-site visits and information presented by area residents to make a formal recommendation to the City Council.