Using Stop Signs to Control Speed

stop signSpeeds considered excessive by residents are considered reasonable by these same persons when they are driving in another neighborhood. This observation is taken from a publication titled Speed Control in Residential Areas by the Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE). It goes on to say that residents’ complaints are usually accompanied by a proposed solution to the speeding problem...stop signs.

My curiosity on the subject was piqued by a Comox Valley resident who drew my attention to a newspaper story describing exactly this situation in the Village of Cumberland. One resident even played the ace by saying "My problem lies in the fact that one day, in the no so distant future, a vehicle may strike and kill a pedestrian, child, pet or what have you," However, like the ITE, two of the village counsellors knew that using stop signs in this situation could actually make the problem worse.

Contrary to what you might think, stop signs do not positively control speed. They are frequently violated and actually increase speeds between signs as drivers make up for time lost in stopping or only slowing down for the stop signs. This exacerbates the speeding problem and introduces the new problem of disobeying the stop sign. We're now worse off than before we tried to fix the problem by putting up the stop sign.

Traffic calming measures, installed as part of an area wide traffic management plan will be more successful. It will also prevent a shift of the problem from one street to another as drivers find new routes to avoid stopping. The three E's, Enforcement, Education and Engineering need to be joined by Community Involvement to produce success. Perhaps the Cumberland residents would be better served by creating their own Living Streets program.

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