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6 Facts About the Stop Sign

Monday April 15, 2019

Featuring a distinct red, octagonal design, the stop sign is the most easily recognizable traffic sign in the United States. It's used on countless roads to instruct motorists to stop their vehicle. But even if you're familiar with the general design and purpose of the stop sign, there are probably some things you don't know about this essential traffic sign.

#1) It Was Originally Black and White

For over a half-century, stop signs have followed a traditional red-and-white design. The country's first stop signs, however, were actually black and white. First appearing on Michigan roads in 1915, they used black letters against a white background. It wasn't until the mid-1950s when the Joint Committee on Uniform Traffic Control Devices issued a notice stating that stop signs should feature white lettering against a red background.

#2) The Size Can Vary

Not all stop signs are the same size. On most U.S. roads, stop signs measure 750 millimeters across. But on multi-lane expressways, larger stop signs measuring 900 millimeters across are used. The larger size allows motorists to see them more easily when driving at high speeds.

#3) The Octagon Shape Helps Motorists Identify It

There's a reason stop signs are shaped like an octagon: It helps motorists identify it. Specifically, motorists able to recognize stop signs more easily when driving towards the back of them. Only the stop sign features this shape, making it easily recognizable to motorists from all directions.

#4) Enforcement Is Expensive

Stop signs are relatively inexpensive and easy to install, but municipalities face steep costs to enforce them. According to a report titled "Effectiveness of Stop Signs When Installed to Control Speeds Along Residential Streets," the average cost to enforce a stop sign is over $210,000 per year. Nonetheless, stop signs are essential to creating a safe community by lowering the risk of traffic accidents.

#5) Other Countries Have Adopted the U.S.'s Design

While the red-and-white stop sign was invented in the United States, other countries have since adopted the design design. Canada and the United Kingdom, for example, use the same red, octagonal design for their stop signs as the United States.

#6) They Are Reflective

If you look closely at a stop sign, you'll notice it has a reflective surface. The reflecting coating is designed to enhance the stop sign's visibility, especially during nighttime and other low-light driving conditions. The Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) even requires a minimum level of "retroflectivity" for stop signs.


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