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LED-Flashing Stop Signs: Are They Legal?

Monday July 01, 2019

While all stop signs used in the United States feature a distinguishable octagon shape with a red background and white lettering, some featured added light-emitting diodes (LEDs). Known as LED-flashing stop signs, they are commonly used as heavily trafficked four-way stops. Because they flash, however, some property developers assume they are illegal. So, can you safely use LED-flashing stop signs, or should you stick with your traditional non-flashing stop signs for your project?

The MUTCD Allows the Use of Flashing-LED Stop Signs

In the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD), you'll discover that flashing-LED stop signs are allowed -- but only if you follow certain requirements for the design and usage. The LEDs, for example, must be embedded either within the border of the stop sign itself or without an area of the background equal to one width of the border. The color of the LEDs must also be either white or red. You cannot use LEDs in other colors for a stop sign. Furthermore, the rate at which the LEDs flash must be between 50 or 60 flashes per minute.

Benefits of Flashing-LED Stop Signs

So, why does the MUTCD allow the use of flashing-LED stop signs? Because they flash, they are typically more visible to motorists than non-flashing stop signs. According to a study cited by the U.S. Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), LED-flashing stop signs reduce the number of vehicles that fail to come to a complete stop at intersections by nearly 29%. Not surprisingly, flashing-LED stop signs are most effective at nighttime. While stop signs are designed with a reflective coating that bounces light from incoming traffic back at the respective motorist, they are difficult for some motorists to see at nighttime. Flashing LEDs solve this problem by illuminating the stop sign and, therefore, attracting the motorist's attention.

Flashing LEDs in Other Traffic Signs

In addition to stop signs, flashing LEDs can be used in other traffic signs. According to the MUTCD, flashing LEDs can be embedded on all traffic signs except for message signs. For warning signs, the LEDs must be white or yellow. For yield signs, the LEDs must be white or red. For school area signs, the LEDs must be white or yellow. For temporary traffic control signs, the LEDs must be white, yellow or orange. For guide signs, the LEDs must be white. And for stop signs, the LEDs must be white or red.


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