Signing & Striping

The Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices outlines the basic principles in which the design and usage of traffic control devices are governed.

Uniformity means treating similar situations in the same way. This simplifies the task of the driver because it aids in instant recognition and understanding. Uniformity aids police, courts and road users by giving everyone the same interpretation. It aids public highway officials through economy in manufacture, installation, maintenance, and administration.

The Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices is the publication that sets forth the basic principles, which govern the design and usage of traffic control devices. A National Committee that included state, county, and municipal representation prepared the Manual. The standards in this Manual with certain exceptions apply to all streets and highways regardless of the governmental agency having jurisdiction.

The primary purpose of guide signs

The principal purpose of guide signs is to direct travelers to their destinations by the best route. However, it is not feasible to install signs listing all of the possible destinations that may be reached from the highway. Drivers must be expected to make reasonable preparation for locating their destination and to have information that is readily available on road maps.

How guide sign messages are determined

Simplicity and clarity are necessary because drivers of moving vehicles are unable to read lengthy or complicated messages on signs. For this reason, the number of lines on a sign is kept to a minimum, and should not exceed three. On freeways, high traffic speeds demand that the number of signs be limited to those absolutely essential for the guidance of the motorist. Freeway exits are identified by exit number, the route number or by the name of the intersecting road. Certain additional messages may be provided where justified. In rural areas signs may be installed to direct travelers to services such as roadside rests, gas, food, and lodging.

"Children at Play" signing policy

As a policy, the County does not install "Children at Play" signs in residential neighborhoods. There are several reasons for this policy:

  • There is no evidence that the sign slows traffic down or makes drivers more aware of children.
  • The sign is not recognized as an official sign by state and national standards.
  • The sign can promote a false sense of security to both children and parents.
  • Every neighborhood has children, so an absence of the sign would incorrectly imply that children do not live in the area.

On occasion, Washington County receives requests for these signs from citizens who are concerned about speeding in residential areas and want these signs installed to provide protection for their children. The concern about residential speeding is very understandable and we too share that concern; however, these signs are not only ineffective, but also deceptive.

Children playing in a residential area are not uncommon. Drivers recognize this fact and expect the presence of children; therefore, Children At Play signs are warning of an obvious condition. Our experience and other studies have shown that attempts to warn drivers about obvious conditions fail to achieve the desired safety benefits. There is no evidence that suggests that these signs prevent accidents or reduce speeds.

"Children At Play" signs are also deceptive for children and give parents a false sense of security. There is an all too common misconception that these signs provide an added degree of protection when motorists, particularly local ones who are used to seeing the signs, actually pay little attention to them. The result can be a dangerous situation where children play in the street with the belief that they are safe.

As these signs are not recognized by the Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices and there are definite problems associated with them, therefore it is our policy not to install "Children At Play" signs.